Calais ‘Jungle’ refugees who sewed mouths shut end hunger strike


Photo credit: Rose Oloumi

Nine Iranian’s who sewed their lips shut as a protest at the inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in the Calais ‘Jungle’ have ended their hunger strike.

The men began their strike on 2 March, shortly after French authorities demolished the southern section of the Calais ‘Jungle’, which is thought to have affected up to 3,500 people.

In a statement released on 25 March, the hunger strikers said:

“We have decided to end our hunger strike not as a direct response to the negotiations with the French State but out of respect for those supporting us, who have a genuine concern for our welfare, and as a gesture of faith that the State abide by their limited assurances to protect and improve the conditions of those in the North of The Jungle.”

After 16 days on hunger strike, a delegate of the prefecture of Pas de Calais came to hear the demands of the group. However, after five meetings, no definitive plan for a change in the treatment of refugees was agreed.

The hunger strikers also met with representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Défenseur des Droits, who assured the men that reports on the conditions of the ‘Jungle’ will be issued.

The French government has abandoned the proposed destruction of the northern section of the camp for the time being, which the hunger strikers consider a “victory”. Instead, it has agreed to improve the living conditions there, including enhancing security, medical and legal services, access to clean water and introducing a paved road to allow emergency services to enter the camp.