There are bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. There are Mosques, markets and hairdressers. In the so-called Jungle of Calais, France—the camp where nearly 3,000 refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and across Africa wait to cross the Channel to the U.K.—life has organized itself. As the camp developed, entrepreneurial migrants have set up shop, providing the necessary resources to sustain a growing population of transitioning asylum seekers.
For photographer Giulio Piscitelli, who has documented these markets, bars and other meeting places, their presence is symptomatic of a crisis that has normalized. “The people living in the Jungle had to find a normal way to survive in a hostile environment,” he says. “These shops represent the unsolved crisis, and it’s happening all across Europe and in many of the refugee camps around the world.”
The shops are often set up and managed by former migrants who have received asylum. “They often haven’t been able to find a better job [so they] came up with these businesses, knowing that within the camp there’s a need for groceries or for places where you can have a cup of tea, have a haircut or pray.”
One such man, Akbar, used to live in Italy. For months, even with his asylum papers, he couldn’t find a decent job where he didn’t feel exploited. “He decided to pick up the little money he had and create a bar and restaurant in Calais,” says the photographer. “Of course, that meant living in the Jungle as well.”
While the French authorities are now planning to evacuate parts of the Jungle before the end of the week, there’s little doubt that these shops will pop up again in Calais and beyond. “For me, the Calais Jungle is a metaphor for a permanent crisis across Europe,” he says. “They talk about the lack of a concrete management of this phenomenon, and this is worrying because the wars and upheavals show no sign of ending.”
Giulio Piscitelli is an Italian photographer covering the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe. He is represented by Contrasto.
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