Migrants Are Still Heading to the Calais 'Jungle' Camp Despite Efforts to Clear the Site

Hundreds of new people have shown at the camp in recent months, with at least 3,900 people currently living in tents, shanties, and a new state-run city of converted shipping containers.
May 26, 2016, 11:30am
Imagen por Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Hundreds more migrants have made their way to the town of Calais on France's north coast in recent months despite the bulldozing of part of their infamous jungle camp in March and in the face of extra port security aimed at preventing them from traveling onward to Britain.

Official figures from the Pas de Calais region put the total number of people living in tents, shanties, and a new state-run city of converted shipping containers at 3,900. The latest figure is up from 3,500 people at the end of March, but well down from the peak of over 6,000 reported in September.

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According to local aid organizations — who have long been at odds with the official count — numbers in the camp are much higher. Estimates from these groups put the figure at somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 people, several hundred of whom are unaccompanied children and teenagers.

"We still see people arrive, the situation on the ground remains very difficult for refugees and specifically children," Marianne Humbersot, a lawyer who offers counselling for migrants, said.

Many of the migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere still try reach Britain, where they hope to resettle, either by climbing onto lorries heading onto ferries or by breaking into the nearby Channel Tunnel.

Staying in France is not a desirable option for many because the success rate of asylum requests is almost half that of England's (25 percent versus 41 percent), the unemployment rate is about double (10 percent versus 5 percent), and many have family members already in Britain.

These efforts are in spite of additional UK-funded security measures introduced in October including extra fencing, cameras, and hundreds of additional police officers.

Related: Clearing France's Migrant Camps: What's Next For Thousands of Evicted Refugees?

The camp itself has changed shape significantly this year.

A state-run park of converted shipping containers with capacity for 1,500 beds opened in January in the north of the jungle area. In a different part of the northern section, migrants have been invited to move into dozens of large heated tents. Meanwhile, the southern half was cleared two months ago.

As the southern portion was cleared, shelters were bulldozed while the displaced clung to their belongings, squatting on roofs during a hailstorm. Eventually, officials aim to bring the Jungle's population will be reduced from almost 5,000 to 1,500 people.

The aim is to house those remaining 1,500 in a new government camp made of converted shipping containers with few communal spaces — a big change from the muddy streets lined with restaurants, churches and nightclubs, which gave life to the makeshift camp. Many migrants do not want to go there as there will be a handprint security system for entry and exit alongside a constant security presence, and they believe they will be forced to apply for asylum in France.

Refugees have also been encouraged to leave the area by bus for one of France's 136 reception facilities. A Pas de Calais spokesman said almost 4,000 refugees had travelled to these reception centers since November last year.

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