Interview with nature organisations involved in the construction of Fort Vert.
Visit to the former Jungle in Calais by the Minister of Interior of France, Bruno Le Roux (02.03.2017):
“I wanted to be in Calais today with the elected officials and the mayor to see that the dismantling [of The Jungle] was a successful operation and that it will now continue with an ambitious project to return this territory back to nature.
To ensure that it benefits the environment and especially to make sure that there would be no new encampments in Calais.
I know the migrant crisis, everyone throughout Europe knows it. I work at European level with my colleagues so that we can take measures of solidarity to make sure not just a few countries carry responsibility.
So I know the pressure still being exerted here and I want to assure that there will be no new encampments in Calais. After what happened here and the dismantling, I absolutely don’t want any new form of settlement to come here.
I know the current pressure, I know how many people want to cross over to England these days and how they settle here to wait for the right moment to pass. I don’t want there to be new camps here and for that reason we will put means of care in place, but they should be far away from Calais so that the care can be done in centers not in this proximity. So that [the migrants] do not come and resettle here today.”
At the location of the former migrant camp The Jungle in Calais the French government has now made plans for the area to be ‘restored to a nature reserve’ named Fort Vert, or Green Fort. Upon entering the site a sign prevents you from further access: ‘Forbidden to the public. This dune area is fragile, please respect it. All intrusion hurts the ecological restoration of this site.’ This is aided by the constant policing of the area, be it in the shape of patrol cars or helicopters. The plan for this ‘ecological restoration’ is summarized in a landscape design by the organization Conservatoire du Littoral:
- Creating sandbanks around the area to block noise and visual disturbances.
- Fencing around the entire site and general security to prevent all intrusion.
- Creating large water zones throughout the entire site.
- Insurance to guarantee this piece of land will not be built on again.
- Demolishing of the buildings surrounding the northern bunker area, previously used by migrants for showers, an electricity hub and a women’s center.
- Planting more sea buckthorn around the perimeter to naturally enforce fencing.
The plans have been divided into three steps of which the first one involves the former Jungle area; the bunker site and its surroundings have a lower priority. All steps to be made are enforced with the help of the state and border security (these partnerships are specifically mentioned). These ecological measures seem to have been formed through the motive of preventing migrant encampment at the site, without actually addressing this reasoning. At comparing aerial photographs of The Jungle and the planned nature reserve4 one could speculate that the placement of large water bodies and sandbanks is done to make any type of settlement impossible, as they are located exactly where the encampments were prior to destruction October 2016. The surrounding water zones resemble a moat: a water line as fortification. Natural elements become political actors: their location and structuring make for a
highly secured and policed nature reserve, founded on ulterior motives. This is further illustrated by a visit to Fort Vert of the French Minister of Security (not Environment) in the first week of March5, at which the landscape design plans (or natural security measures) were presented to him. Simultaneously he used that time to honor the police force of Calais for all their hard work, after which he went on to pay visits to a truck parking lot and the Eurotunnel, all elements within the migrants issue.
Not only is nature in this case weaponized and militarized with the purpose of fortifying the border, it also acts as a tool for erasure. All the different elements involved; the plants, the water, the crafting of landscape, the antiintrusion measures, aim to construct a narrative in which it is suggested that no human being ever set foot in this area. A fiction is created in which the site is reduced to a paradise-like state: excluding all wildness, including conservation and control: a naïve or unaffected place where all compromising heritage is erased.