Migration is one of the hottest topics in society and it has been like this for many decades. Demagogues would pander to a nation’s insecurities and exploit fears that migrants would come to “steal” their jobs and “rinse” the benefits system; nevermind that it’s been proven time and again that migrants contribute to a country’s coffers through taxation and spending many times more than they take in the form of benefits. One only needs to look at what’s happening in the UK right now – as the island is tightening its borders, fruit is rotting unpicked in the fields, the hospitality industry is on its knees, not to mention the national health service and the care sector. It appears that these jobs were not being “stolen” from the local population as you can’t steal a job from somebody who doesn’t want to do that job. Be that as it may, the rhetoric is politically incendiary, therefore popular with the ruling Conservative party.
Back in September 2016, Aaron Chown set out to document the Jungle Camp in Calais where asylum seekers reside before attempting to enter the United Kingdom. The photographer highlighted the humanitarian migration crisis that engulfed the continent 5 years ago and decided it’s appropriate and important to remind us of the situation on the 5th anniversary of the demolition of the camp. The project is an attempt to ask us to stop and think for ourselves rather than listen to politicians whose rhetoric is full of fearmongering and half-truths. Are these people really coming over to steal your work or are they more likely to be fleeing their home country due to fear of persecution, instability and even death? Who would put themselves willingly in these unsanitary and precarious conditions that we witness in the camp?
The pictures are powerful and diverse; the golden orange colours of the sunset are skilfully contrasted with the human predicament that’s happening under the sky. The suffering is palpable, yet we can see a rainbow — a symbol of hope that better times will come one day. In another picture we can see the border — a mighty metaphor for the idea of separation and otherness; “them”, the aliens “invading” our country, and “us”, the native population. It’s bizarre how strong this narrative is when most of the so-called “local” population isn’t really local. The mobile phone together with the suitcase is a recurring motif which gives us a good idea of the situation the Jungle residents are in — they are travelers in search of a new place to call home.
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