Olivier Norek ‘Between Two Worlds’

‘You know how they try to climb into the lorries at least? The attacks on the HGVs, the violence towards the drivers, accidents provoked like stage coach attacks, road blocks and fires on the motorway. Does that mean anything to you?’***

Welcome to Calais, the setting for the French crime writer closest in theme to Ken Loach, Olivier Norek and his latest book, ‘Between Two Worlds’. Norek has left his Paris suburbs for the Jungle at Calais, showing us the impact of migration policies on the migrants, the city of Calais and the police by concentrating on the stories of Adam, the Syrian refugee and Bastien the police lieutenant. Here in the opening quote, Bastien’s team try to explain to him their job on the day of his arrival in Calais. The police do not go into the migrant camp but try to police the effects of the camp as the people smugglers try to halt the lorries for groups of migrants to try to climb on board, and the tourists that now avoid the area causing economic distress in Calais:

I know what I’ve seen on the telly, no more than that admits Bastien. Well I’ll let Érica take care of that, getting back to the Angry Calaisiens, their initial aims were to film and to post the every day life of Calais onto the social networks, the difficulty of the locals when faced with this penniless floating population, the attempts, sometimes ultra-violent, to cross over to England. Then the extremists latched on, the migrant bashers who organised attacks on immigrants, black hunting, some call it ‘safaris’.***

The police in this book carry out their job, sometimes dangerous, night after night, often showing signs of depression and when in this story they get a chance to help a migrant they are only too happy to be able to hold their heads up and to look their own families in the eyes again.

The story begins with Adam, a military policeman in Syria and his family who are secret opponents of Bachar el-Hassad needing to get out of their country quickly as someone in Adam’s cell is captured, Adam puts his wife and child on a flight to Tunis hoping to join then as soon as possible if he is not captured, they have seen reports on the internet and Adam tells his wife:

Wait for me, like we said at the safest place, the women’s huts in the jungle at Calais.***

Things do not go to plan and Adam finds himself alone, looking for his family in Calais where we hear something of the organisation within the camp, the clans: the Afghans the most numerous but also the soudanais. Adam who as a military policeman had learned to look after himself rescues a young illiterate African, a sexual slave, who has had his tongue cut out and that he names Kilani, from the Afghans and for a quid pro quo works with Bastien within the camp in order to get Kilani to England. How do the sniffer dogs find the migrants in the lorries? Well we learn that too:

The sniffer dogs are trained to find the smell common to all migrants. That of bonfires.***

First Published in French as “Entre Deux Mondes” in 2017 by Michel Lafon
*** My translation

The original quotes before translation

‘Vous savez comment ils essaient de monter dans les camions tout de même ? Les assauts sur les poids lourds, les agressions de chauffeurs les accidents provoqués comme des attaques de diligences, les barrages et les incendies sur l’autoroute. Ça vous parle?’

Ça me parle comme la télé m’en parle mais je n’en sais pas vraiment plus avoua Bastien. Alors je laisse Érica s’en chargera et j’en reviens aux Calaisien en Colère leurs premiers buts étaient de filmer et de poster le quotidien de Calais sur les réseaux sociaux, la vie difficile des habitants face à cette population sans attaches et sans argent, des tentatives parfois ultra-violent de passage vers l’Angleterre puis des extrémistes s’y sont greffés des casseurs de migrants qui ont organisés des ratonades et des chasses aux noirs, des safaris disaient certains

Attends moi, comme on avait dit à l’endroit le plus sûr, les baraquements pour femmes de la jungle de Calais.

Des sniffeurs sont entraînés à trouver l’odeur qui est commune à tous les migrants. Celle du feu de bois.

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