L’Auberge des Migrants organised a mammoth walk from Ventimiglia to London to show their solidarity with refugees taking long and dangerous journeys from their country of origin to try and seek safety in Europe. After two months of walking they finally ended up in Grande-Synthe and then Calais.
Grande-Synthe was a more calm affair with music in the local hall and a speech from the Mayor of Grande-Synthe, Damien Carême. Carême is a divisive figure. He engages with outwardly liberal messaging, embracing the refugee rights movement. At the same time he supports the continuous evictions of the necessary encampments (necessary due to lack of accommodation in the area) leaving people lost and with no sense of stability.
Calais was much larger. Two thousand people marched through the streets, and for once Calais was a safe place for refugees. I saw one person close her bar/restaurant and join the march in an impromptu show of solidarity. Local residents cheered from their balconies. It made me wonder whether the aggressive and hateful anti-migrant policies enacted by the local Government had as much support from the local people as they assumed. Of course no local wants tent cities in Calais like the infamous Jungle in 2016; but do they want this never ending cycle of police brutality either?