Calais- Welcome to the jungle

Those choosing the United Kingdom as destination, face the channel as a natural border between the UK and France. Figuring their best chance to cross by ferry is to jump on a truck going to the UK, they concentrate in Calais and Dunkerque. So far migrants have lived there by squatting squares and abandoned structures.

In early March, Calais’ chief of police informed the migrants to leave these encampments by beginning of April and move to a former landfill at the city border. Besides having been a landfill, the designated area is right next to the highway, a chemical factory and the harbour. This is what life is like in the new shanty town or jungle of Calais.

Triumphantly Khaled holds up a pair of Bananas he managed to get a hold of from an illegal private food distribution.
Khaled is a 27 year old barber from Jallabad in Afghanistan. From 2008 to 2014 he learned the barber trait and worked in Bradford, UK. According to him he left the UK for Italy afterwards since “the UK is too cold.” Now he wants to visit his family, living and working in the UK, which has brought him to Calais.
The Afghan district of the 3000 inhabitants shanty town as seen from the motorway to the harbour. Authorities have set up a paved pathway with turning pad at the end. The pad has become a rudimentary towns square with a mosque next to it. Migrants and locals call this area the new jungle. The next sanitary installation is about 3 km through the shrubbery in the back.
Authorities have officially forbidden food distribution outside the governmental aid and distribution centre of Jules Ferry. As a matter of fact these illegal distributions by locals are an important part of the migrants food supply, however regularly leading to a scuffle.
Arif, 27, watches other migrants play volleyball and football on the district square, chatting with an associate, while others recharge their phones or listen to music. His leg injury is the result of a failed attempt to jump on a truck to the UK. He receipted basic treatment and is uncertain how to proceed with his plan.
The only bigger humanitarian organisation represented in the shanty town is Meds Du Monde, operating mainly with local volunteers to distribute hygiene packs to the inhabitants. At this point 1800 packets have been given out.
The electricity to charge phones originates from a generator provided by two locals who bring a PA-system for music as well and took the initiative seeing conditions. These basic necessities are the rarest, their cellphones are the connection to families back home and in the UK, the music helps to relax and take of the mind for a while in the afternoon.
Four migrants from Sudan play a classic card game in the Sudanese district of the shanty town. Since the paved way barely extents to their perimeter they have formed small compounds much like small villages interconnected by dirty roads. Each compound houses a minimum of 10 people in at least three huts, utilizing shrubbery as makeshift fences. Some of these compounds are built with concrete flooring, some have a designated bathroom area.
Jawal is stuffing cigarettes. He comes from Char-Darah in Kunduz province and has opened up a shop with Mohamed. They have crowd funded the enterprise and operate within a tight margin to prevent “the others from stealing and committing bad deeds.” Other small businesses are set up as people settle down to provide services to those passing through.
Ali the escaper, 20, fled Greek migration prison once he understood he will be incarcerated for 24 months. Once the plan arose he and three others took the guard by surprise and made a run for it. While fleeing, the police opened fire- hitting Ali on the heel. To this day
the entry point of the bullet is still visible. He hopes to find employment as a mechanic in the UK due to prior training in Afghanistan.
Adam, 24, has fled from Darfur and holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Khartoum University. He hopes to continue and finish his studies in the UK with a master’s degree in the same field. “The situation here is bad and I don’t understand how France, the country proclaiming human rights at first, can let this happen.”
Hameed, 28, worked for the Canadians in Helmand province. Once the Taliban found out, local elders warned him not to continue his work. Since he continued they warned his father who in return took him to Kabul. Before departure Hameed received the 300 year old family heirloom ring to never forget of his family. He hopes to continue working as a translator for migrants in the UK due to his documents proving his skills. “If they catch me in France, I rather go back to Afghanistan than stay in these conditions. Germany would be nice but I won’t make it back. And at least in Afghanistan I die at home with my family.” His journey went from Afghanistan to Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and now France.
A volunteer of Meds Du Monde explains the content of the hygiene packet which supplies the most necessary and basic hygiene articles, even though access to running water and showers is scarce.. The team already sees the start of a scabies epidemic among the migrants as latrines and other sanitary installations are rare or too far away for frequent use.
Despite their situation, hospitality and openness to visitors is predominant, reaching from casual chats to invitation for Chai, Kawa or dinner. A visitor means interruption of the dull daily routine for everybody, bringing the chance to be heard and may it just be a single person. Tensions are high due to their general situation, the media interest and the disbelieve in the police’s promise to give them a wide pass in this area.
Electricity is only available from the generators and the Jules Ferry centre, flashlights and bonfires bring a remedy for cooking under a plastic tarp. The majority of inhabitants is male, leaving all task to themselves. Here five Sudanese and Eritrean migrants cook a simple meal with onions, tomato sauce and meat while chatting, smoking and joking with one another.
Jawal and Mohamed have permanently given up reaching the UK. “We have freedom here and it’s safer than trying to jump a truck. We’d be glad to pay taxes to the French state if we get the rights to stay here.” They supply their shop by buying from supermarkets in the city centre, about 4,5 km away and use public transport for most of the way. Especially cigarettes are on high demand, a pack of ten cigarettes goes for 1.30€.
Meals are provided by the Jules Ferry Centre, serving 1300 meals daily according to reports. The queue is massive leaving those who came last either with some bread or nothing to eat at all. In the same way the centre tries to provide a shower for every person everyday and is the only water supplier. The square in front of the centre forms a second hub for the migrants and their care. Here many locals come privately to help and provide what they have, e.g. nurses treating minor illnesses and injuries, arranging transport to the hospital by ambulance if they can’t help. Besides health care, people provide clothing and building material, all under surveillance and observation of the French riot police.
Locals get more and more organised, giving out tickets and vouchers for food and building material which will be provided at a given time at a certain location to prevent scuffle among the migrants. Here they receive palettes to build and improve their compounds as well as sacks of onions at the entrance of the Afghani district. Receiving basic supplies is a huge hassle as the Afghani district is about 15 to 20 min away from the Jules Ferry Centre at the other side of the shanty town. Without help, health would deteriorate even faster, leaving many hungry and thirsty.
As tensions are high, impossible chances are taken to jump on a truck. Very few attempts like this during the day are successful and most migrants try their luck during the night. If the police sees attempts like this they will resort to violence, like spraying pepper
spray and using their batons to scare off others as videos by the migrants show.

As long as France and the EU will not implement a better migration policy, these conditions will continue to be a part of the European migrant crisis. It is highly likely that these conditions will deteriorate as the shanty town grows with approximately 50 new inhabitants every day, exhausting the already inadequate infrastructure.

According to reports, the French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve visited the Jules Ferry Centre recently claiming that “Too many migrants who could benefit from asylum in France are still hesitating because they think that they would be better off in England. (…) We have to make them understand that claiming asylum in France is their best hope.”

It is unclear if these conditions are meant to be the best hope.

Note: Pictures are from the beginning of April, information last updated mid May.