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In Photos: Dunkirk's Refugee Wasteland, Even Worse Than the Calais Jungle

VICE News visited the refugee and migrant camp in Dunkirk, France, where more than 2,500 people are living in total squalor. The frozen mudbath is home to many families and young children.
Photo par Phil Caller/VICE News

The migrant and refugee camp in Calais, northern France, has now gained international notoriety and attracted floods of volunteers who have made a grim situation slightly more bearable for the roughly 5,000 people there.

But half an hour up the road there is another settlement now housing at least half that number, but in even more squalid conditions. Even worse, there are hundreds of families, including dozens of children, compared to the mostly young adult male population in the Calais camp.


The camp, on a piece of wetland nestled between a residential area and a motorway connecting Dunkirk to Calais, is seen as a strategic location by the people smugglers who operate around the port of Dunkirk and on a nearby service area.

Related: France Agrees to Build New Camp as Refugees and Migrants in the North Face Winter

The winter weather first turned the camp into a sludgy mud bath, then a frozen wasteland. It has has the most rudimentary of facilities and cannot cope with residents' basic needs, say aid organizations.

The French government has agreed to build a new camp with heated tents and bathrooms, but local officials say "many details still need to be ironed out."

Welcome to France in 2016, where thousands of people in the Dunkirk refugee camp live in terrible conditions on frozen wasteland, with hardly any basic infrastructure.

Refugees walks across muddy field potted with deep frozen puddles. The occupants are mostly Iraqi Kurds, Syrians and Iranians.

Facilities at the muddy camp are extremely limited, with only two drinking water stations and a couple of dozen mostly chemical toilets.

Tents rest on cardboard and sleeping bags to try to stop them sinking into the quagmire. 

Established in 2006, the camp housed a maximum of 80 people until last fall.

Hadi is one years old. VICE News met him as his family arrived in the frozen mud bath of the Dunkirk refugee camp. His father told us they fled their village near Kirkuk, Iraq, after it was attacked by the Islamic State. They are trying to get to the UK to be reunited with relatives in London. They have traveled thousands of miles, with one final border now standing in their way — perhaps the hardest yet.

All photos by Phil Caller. 

Follow Phil Caller on Instagram: @phil_caller