Border Ecologies Network

Anti-migrant environmental securitisations in Calais

Author: Travis Van Isacker
Region: Calais, France – UK border
Image: View of La Lande, Calais, Travis Van Isacker

Recent security infrastructures preventing migrants in Calais from living in and around the city has been protecting the UK's territorial border by creating environmental conservation zones. Following the 2016 eviction and destruction of the Jungle, what was a toxic wasteland before authorities directed migrants to move there while destroying their other homes, La Lande has since been converted into a nature reserve, off limits to human activities. Bois Chico Mendes, another outdoor site where migrants have been living, was enclosed with two meter high fencing in 2018 in preparation for its conversion into an eco park. In both cases migrants and their homes were presented as threatening the environmental health of these spaces to justify their destruction. Sensationalized reporting of the trash migrants were producing created images of migrants as polluting and disrespecting nature, reproducing racist stereotypes of migrants' racialized bodies as dirty and their behaviors as environmentally destructive. By contrast, local authorities present themselves as competent stewards concerned with ‘cleaning’ and protecting the natural environment. However, neglected in considerations of these environmental/border securitizations is how governmental policies are responsible for producing migrants’ waste in the first place; for example, by refusing to provide alternative accommodation solutions, proper bodily or material waste disposal infrastructure, or sending police on daily missions in which migrants’ belongings are soiled and destroyed. By keeping migrants inhabiting outdoor environments in ways that produce visible waste allows continued anti-migrant domicidal policies to be justified as recreating and subsequently protecting ‘pristine natures’, a more depoliticized project enjoying broad public support.

Part of a broader PhD research project on the production of anti-migrant spaces of citizenship in Calais, which can be found here: