Refugees Go Into Hiding After Destruction By Government Of Calais ‘Jungle’ Camp They Once Called Home

Following tear down of Calais camp

Sattar, a young 22-year-old refugee who once studied in Reading, England is looking to return, yet has found himself without any space to find shelter following the tear-down of the Calais refugee camp where he had spent many months. Instead, he now lives in a ditch 30 miles inland from Calais.

The ditch he selected to use as a shelter is hidden behind blackberry bushes in a dip between two fields and has become home to approximately 25 Afghan migrants. Most people in a nearby village are unaware that this is the case. Many of the refugees are new arrivals in Europe and have fled instability in Afghanistan with the hopes of finding jobs and security in Britain. Sattar is making his second journey to the U.K. but the complexities in the U.K. immigration system has stalled the process.

Now that the French authorities have bulldozed Calais refugee camp that has been officially closed this week, all that remains is a sandy wasteland. However, the crisis has not been resolved. The refugee crisis has simply been shifted to other locations. Refugees remain hidden from authorities in clusters across much of northern France and are determined to eventually reach the United Kingdom.

Many refugees are hidden in small numbers like Sattar’s group, within fields, garages, and abandoned buildings. Others are now based in official camps close to Dunkirk, at Grande-Synthe. Populations at these camps have increased from around 800 people three weeks ago to approximately 1,400 this week, due to the shutdown of camps in Paris and Calais.

Officials at the camps would not share precise numbers of those inhabiting them and the recent status of the camp is that it is closed now to newcomers. Yet volunteers who distribute the food and aid to the migrants share that the numbers at the camp have spiked recently and that huts which were designed to hold only four are now accommodating twice the number.

The president of the refugee charity L’Auberge des Migrants, Christian Salomé, shares that in clearing the Calais camp, the crisis was not ended. The Guardian shares his words about the new situation and challenges.

“It will come again. about 97% of the people who come are fleeing war, and those wars continue, particularly in Iraq. Until the demolition, 40 people were arriving every day. They will continue to come.”

There has been a heavy police presence that has been guarding motorways around Calais, while police in Paris have been making checks on people that are lacking papers and are trying to board trains and buses for the north of France.

This week, there was a heavy police presence guarding motorways around Calais, and police in Paris were making checks on people without papers trying to board trains and buses for northern France.

The Calais camp has been torn down, but it is not possible to demolish the determination that the refugees have to find their way to the U.K. Therefore, many will likely return to the wasteland in Calais and rebuild seeing as it is so near the channel that can provide eventual passage to Britain. Salome shares on this subject.

“If they don’t want to claim asylum in France, they will have to leave the centres. They can’t be deported back to their countries if there is a war there. There is no possibility for them to work in France. They will continue to come to Calais.”

Those who refused to take buses to reception centers in France following the tear-down have resorted to living in hiding from authorities. The Afghans who are living in the ditch along with Sattar have no desire to remain in France. They have one goal and want to remain close to their connection to that goal.

“In Paris, I saw people who have been given 10 years leave to remain in France, who are still sleeping in the park and sitting outside churches asking for money. That’s not a life,” Sattar said.

Sattar has made two attempts to climb into trucks and cross to the U.K., yet was discovered at the port both times.

[Featured Image by Carl Court/Getty Images]