More than 3,000 migrants at Calais 'Jungle'

The shanty town known as Jungle Camp in the French port city of Calais. It is home to more than 3,000 migrants and shows signs of becoming more permanent by the day, the Guardian newspaper has reported.
The shanty town known as Jungle Camp in the French port city of Calais. It is home to more than 3,000 migrants and shows signs of becoming more permanent by the day, the Guardian newspaper has reported.PHOTO: REUTERS

CALAIS • A wasteland dotted with tents made of plastic, scrap wood and tree branches has become one of the biggest migrant camps in Europe and the focus of a refugee crisis for France and Britain.

High fences topped with razor wire edge the motorways into the French port city of Calais from where thousands of migrants hope to sneak into Britain.

At the port's northern fringes, the shanty town known as Jungle Camp is home to more than 3,000 migrants and shows signs of becoming more permanent by the day, the Guardian has reported.

"The situation is getting worse and worse, as the migrants have to find ever more dangerous routes to try and get... to Britain," the British newspaper quoted medical volunteer Cecile Bossy as saying.

Migrants living in the jigsaw of plastic sheeting, tents and rubbish have told of appalling journeys from their homelands to Calais. The seaport of 75,000 people in northern France has long been a crossing point to Britain, just 34km away across the English Channel. The French end of the Channel Tunnel emerges 6km west of the town.

Teddy, from Eritrea, told the Guardian how he fled his homeland after his father was killed by the Eritrean regime two years ago.

He survived crossing the Sahara and spent a "terrible year" in a Libyan prison.

"This (the camp) is not good but compared to what I have seen it is OK," he told the Guardian.

Calais has had migrant camps for more than 15 years, usually bulldozed by the authorities. The new Jungle, beside a motorway leading to the port, is bigger and better organised than its predecessors.

Still, the living conditions are leading to widespread health problems. The Medecins du Monde charity, which has built a clinic in the camp, told London's Daily Telegraph that their action was of the type "usually reserved for situations of war or catastrophe".

But there are also shops selling everything from hair weaves to energy drinks, a couple of cafes and even a nightclub in a tent, playing mainly Ethiopian music.

Along with several makeshift mosques, an Ethopian Orthodox church has sprung up, built of wooden pallets and sheeting.

The French authorities have provided street lighting, a few toilet blocks and water points . A former hospital nearby provides shelter for women with children and distributes one hot meal a day.

Seventeen-year-old Lea told the Telegraph that she arrived at the camp from Eritrea, after travelling through Sudan and Libya and a risky boat trip across the Mediterranean to Sicily. She has turned down the right to asylum in France

"France no good. England good, England freedom," the Telegraph quoted her as saying.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'More than 3,000 migrants at Calais 'Jungle''. Print Edition | Subscribe