Croisilles, a village of 1,500 people, thought that the migrant crisis would pass them by. Being 100 kilometres away from the Jungle, the village had yet to see a refugee. They felt safe because the government didn’t want to open a CAO (a welcome and integration centre) in the same département as the Calais camp.
But to set an example, the prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais has ordered the old retirement home to be requisitioned. At first the inhabitants of the village panicked but the shock didn’t last long. Support for the migrants was quickly organized. When, a bus of refugees arrived from the Jungle, it was warmly welcomed by volunteers.
Since then, 36 refugees, the majority of whom are Sudanese, have flourished. The volunteers give them French lessons six days a week, some of them play sports and others build links with the university of Artois and the Theatre in Arras. Even the Prime Minister went there to point out the centre’s value and to emphasize this post-Calais success. It is the uplifting story of the moment, proof that integration could work in France and the answer can be found maybe in Croisilles.