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UK street artist Banksy paints at Calais camp

Banksy has turned heads after painting pictures around the northern port city of Calais, one of which shows Apple founder Steve Jobs apparently as a refugee.

UK street artist Banksy paints at Calais camp
A picture shows Steve Jobs in Calais. Photo: Banksy
The images were painted around Calais, a northern French town that plays host to the Jungle migrant camp, home to 4,500 refugees. 
 
They were apparently the work of Banksy, a UK street artist whose real identity remains a mystery. 
 
He posted a message on his site explaining the images, one of which shows Steve Jobs – the son of a Syrian migrant – apparently as a refugee himself.

The image was posted on a concrete wall in the Jungle. 
 
 
“We're often led to believe migration is a drain on the country's resources but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant,” Banksy said in a statement. 
 
“Apple is the world's most profitable company, it pays over $7bn (£4.6bn) a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”
 
Another image was painted near the coast line, showing what appears to be a young child gazing out to see through a telescope. On top of the child's telescope is a vulture staring down. 
 
 
 
A third, above, was painted near a pharmacy in the town, and shows a version of the famous French painting The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault . The painting of a group of desperate survivors on a raft after the wreck of the Medusa is given a modern, refugee-themed twist with the survivors trying to get the attention of a luxury boat in the distance. 
 
Calais authorities have no intention of removing the grafitti, announcing plans to cover them with plastic panels. 
 
“We found out about the presence of this artwork on Friday and have decided to protect it, so it is not damaged,” a Calais city spokeswoman said.
 
Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart told local newspaper Nord Littoral that the artwork was an opportunity for the city, praising the works' “positive message”.

Also on the artist's site were images from the shelters his team built in the Calais camp, put together with the structural elements from his “bemusement park” that closed several months ago in the UK. 

POLICE

French police cause misery for migrants in Calais

French police are inflicting misery on migrants in the northern port of Calais, routinely tearing down their tents and forcing them to wander the streets as part of a deterrence policy, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published on Thursday.

French police cause misery for migrants in Calais
A migrant camp is evacuated by police forces in Calais in February 2019. Photo: Philippe HUGUEN / AFP.

The 75-page report documents methods used by authorities to prevent the emergence of another major migrant settlement in Calais, five years after the demolition of the sprawling “Jungle” camp which housed up to 10,000 people at its peak.

Calais has for years been a rallying point for migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa trying to sneak across the English Channel to Britain.

Faced with growing public anti-migrant sentiment, President Emmanuel Macron’s government has waged a campaign to prevent new camps emerging.

Police tactics include systematically tearing down migrants’ tents in the woods, on wasteland or under bridges, regularly confiscating their belongings and harassing NGOs trying to provide them with aid, according to New York-based HRW.

“The authorities carry out these abusive practices with the primary purposes of forcing people to move elsewhere, without resolving their
migration status or lack of housing, or of deterring new arrivals,” it said in the report entitled “Enforced Misery: The Degrading Treatment of Migrant Children and Adults in Northern France”.

‘Harass and abuse’

NGOs estimate the number of migrants currently living around Calais at between 1,500 and 2,000, including numerous families. Local authorities estimate that only 500 remain in the area.

Last week, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin ordered the eviction of a camp housing 400 migrants near a hospital in Calais, which was presented as a danger to the hospital’s patients and staff.

On that occasion the migrants were taken to temporary shelters but often they are left to wander the streets.

“When the police arrive, we have five minutes to get out of the tent before they destroy everything,” a Kurdish woman from Iraq told HRW.

The interior ministry did not respond to AFP’s request for comment on the report.

The government argues that the camps are havens for people smugglers, who command extortionate fees to help migrants cross to Britain, either in a small boat crossing the Channel in the dead of night or stowed away on a truck crossing by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel.

NGOs argue that the tactics do nothing more than make migrants already difficult lives even more miserable.

The report quoted the Calais-based Human Rights Observers group as saying that in some cases cleaning crews cut migrants’ tents while people are still inside, in order to force them out.

“If the aim is to discourage migrants from gathering in northern France, these policies are a manifest failure and result in serious harm,” Benedicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch, said.

French authorities “need a new approach to help people, not repeatedly harass and abuse them,” she added.

A total of 15,400 people attempted to cross the Channel in the first eight months of this year, a increase of 50 percent over the figure for the whole of 2020, according to French coast guard statistics.

“Exiles aren’t travelling to northern France because they’ve heard they can camp in the woods or stay under a bridge…They come because that’s where the border is,” Charlotte Kwantes, national coordinator of the Utopia 56 charity was quoted in the report as saying.

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