An unlikely character has appeared in the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp. With a black bin bag thrown over one shoulder and an original Apple computer in his hand, he stares down over the roughly 7,000 people living in the camp through his owl-like glasses.
The mysterious figure in jeans and a black sweater isn’t a newly arrived refugee, but computer visionary Steve Jobs. Banksy’s new mural seeks to challenge attitudes towards Syrian refugees by pointing out that Jobs, the creative force behind the world’s most valuable company, Apple, is in fact the son of a Syrian migrant, who went to America after the second world war.
Accompanying his new series of murals in and around the Calais camp, Banksy said in a statement: “We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7bn (£4.6bn) a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”
While media has drummed up fear towards refugees, Banksy’s piece is a reminder of the human potential being wasted in camps like the Jungle. The thousands of Syrians, Afghanis, Eritreans and people of other nations – many of whom are highly educated – stuck in the Jungle could be our future doctors, scientists – or even computer billionaires.
The refugee crisis has become a focus of Banksy’s recent work. At Dismaland, his temporary “bemusement” park in Weston-Super-Mare, visitors were invited to pilot remote-control model coastguard boats to ram overcrowded migrant boats in a stomach-churning parody of Europe’s response to thousands of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean.
On closing night, Banksy invited Pussy Riot to debut their song ‘Refugees In’, which called out government’s pathetic response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding along their shores and borders.
Since the park closed in September, the artist’s team has been transporting leftover materials to help build emergency shelters, a community area and a children’s play park for the thousands living in dire conditions in the Jungle, the site of a former rubbish tip in Calais.