A theme park called 'Heroic Land' is to be built three kilometers from the Calais refugee camp. Courting social controversy, Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart believes that the US$298 million (€275m) project will transform the town into a tourist resort. Much like what Banksy achieved in Weston-Super-Mare in England.
But the reality will be that tourists heading for the theme park for a jolly old time will be just three thousand meters from the dismalness of Europe's worse refugee camp, now home to 6,000 vulnerable and ill people.
Francois Guennoc, a coordinator with local charity L'auberge des Migrants, told The Guardian:
"It is the largest slum in Europe and probably the worst."
According to Doctors of the World, the conditions women and children are living in are "far below any minimum standards for refugee camps."
Refugees living there told reporters:
"We feel like we are dying slowly."
'Heroic Land' is due to be open in 2019 and will feature 32 attractions with different themes. "It offers innovation that doesn't exist in other theme parks," Bouchart claims.
The French government has agreed to fund a US$239,000 (€220,000) study on the viability of the project — the regional council has pledged US$434,000 (€400,000). Bouchart hopes private investors will stump up the cash to meet the US$298 million (€275m) construction cost.
Marc Legrand, a manager at Calais Promotion, the town's business development agency, said:
"There is a problem of migrants here and that harms the area's image. The creation of the park will associate Calais with a positive image."
Legrand also dismissed suggestions that investors might not be willing to back the theme park due to its proximity to the so-called 'Jungle Camp'. He also dismissed any interest in the theme park from refugees.
"It won't interest them [refugees] because it won't help them get to the UK."
Yet the sight of a theme park so close to a refugee camp might end up being more like Banksy's 'Bemusement Park' than intended.