Since the end of the Cold War, the Mediterranean has become the most lethal of Europe’s barriers against irregular migration, having claimed nearly 20,000 migrant lives in the last two decades.
The social consequences of austerity economics have been most visible in Europe’s southern periphery. In the UK, the coalition government has brought in sharp cutbacks in welfare state provision in the name of dealing with the financial crisis. Their impact is becoming increasingly visible.
It’s 10 am on Saturday morning and a group of migrants is clustered round the entrance to the Migrant Clothes Association in the Calais city centre, eating breakfast provided by the association. Inside, the warehouse is stacked with blankets, tents, trainers and clothes. Some of these will be distributed later by the association’s workers.
It’s more than two years since French police demolished the migrant squatter camp in Calais known as the Jungle in September 2009. At the time the widely-publicised demolition was hailed by the French and British authorities as a major blow to the smugglers or passeurs who facilitated illegal immigration across the Channel.