Artwork positions crying Les Miserables child next to interactive QR code linking to alleged footage of French troops tear-gassing desperate migrants.
An unsettling graffiti mural has appeared this weekend on the French Embassy in London. The artwork, by elusive graffiti artist Banksy, depicts Causette, the small child from musical Les Miserables, and a geotag linking to YouTube footage of alleged tear gas bombings in one of the current migrant camps in Calais.
The emotive image shows the child positioned in front of the French flag, with tears welling in her eyes. A canister of CS gas lies overturned, spilling smoke billowing towards her. There is little doubt that the graffiti is a direct, scathing statement about the wrong-handling of the current migrant crisis.
Appearing overnight on Saturday 24th January, if passers by hold their smart phone over the QR tag, it links directly to disturbing footage of apparent police attacks on the refugee camp in Calais. Referred too by the media as the “jungle”, the camp was raided by police two weeks ago on the 5th January.
The artwork was covered up by wooden planks on the morning of Monday 26th. This is after a gang reportedly attempted to steal the now highly valuable artwork in the early hours of the morning. Cheval Property Management Limited, the company who own the building involved, reported that: “Cheval Property Management Limited will be preserving the mural and is currently discussing future plans for the artwork.”
In a controversial twist, Google have made the decision to keep the mural visible on Google Street maps, so interactive web users can still view the statement from all around the world. This is arguably a subtle way of stating their brand stance on the highly debated issue.
Banksy is known for his vocal political pieces, and this is certainly not the first to directly criticise Europe’s poor management of the ongoing refugee crisis. It appears to be a clear comment on the French authorities attempts to bulldoze part of the camp that has been set up at Calais, after it was deemed unsafe. Their attempts to do so aimed to evict around 1,500 refugees.
When asked to comment, police spokesperson Steve Barbet clearly denied any involvement of teargas in the evacuation of the camps, stating – “it’s not in our interest to use teargas unless it’s absolutely necessary to restore public order, and it is never used in the camp itself”.
Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the video clearly depicts teargas, rubber bullets and concussion grenades all being used in the camp, bringing Sargent Barbets claims into question. The video records a long seven minutes of screams, explosions and people seemingly running for shelter.
Sadly, the overnight raid is not the first report of tear gas being used by the French authorities – videos emerged last Monday seemingly depicting the usage once more to aid in the creation of a buffer zone between the camps and the motorway.
Earlier this month, a Steve Jobs mural appeared on the wall of a tunnel in the refugee camp in Calais. The Banksy work aimed to communicate the significance of one of the richest and most intelligent technological greats in the world being the son of two Syrian migrants himself. In a statement, Banksy made clear that “one of the most profitable companies in the world… Only existed because [they] allowed in a man from Homs”. Several other works by Banksy have appeared in the camp and surrounding area, including an interpretation of the Raft of Medusa.
All of Banksys efforts seem creatively rallying cry to push European leaders. The much-needed publicity stunt begs those in positions of power to step up to their responsibilities and assist the innocent fleeing war-torn countries.
Banksy himself has been shipping the leftover infrastructure from his Summer exhibition ‘Dismaland’ to the camp since September. This has assisted in the build of emergency housing, play parks and a community area for the 7,000 migrants now living on the site of a former rubbish tip.
Watch the video here: