06. April 2015 · Kommentare deaktiviert für Calais: ‚At night it’s like a horror movie‘ – The Guardian · Kategorien: Frankreich · Tags: ,

The Guardian

Inside Calais’s official shanty town

New jungle camp, which has no shelter for men and no running water, represents an alarming toughening in France’s treatment of UK-bound migrants

Karim, an Egyptian politics graduate with an admiration for Winston Churchill and “all things British”, had spent days trying to fix up a tent in thorny and windswept scrubland on the site of old rubbish dump in Calais, using bits of plastic sheeting, flimsy branches, a few stones and a wooden pallet.

“This has got to be the worst place I’ve ever seen – it’s not fit for animals,” he said. After rain poured into his tent at night, at 2am he got up and walked, soaking, the four miles (7km) back to his old squat in the centre of Calais, pelted with potatoes from a car whose passenger slowed down and shouted racist abuse.

His old squat, in an abandoned metal-processing plant, was a fetid place but at least it had a roof, one tap and some kind of toilet. But French police had threatened to raze it and told him and hundreds of others they now had no choice but to go to site of the old rubbish tip and fend for themselves.

I paid $3,000 (£2,000) to leave Egypt, risked my life on a boat to Italy spending days at sea,” Karim said. “In one month in Calais, I’ve tried 20 times to stow away in lorries to England, always dragged out by police. I don’t want English taxpayers’ money, I respect England and the way Churchill handled a terrible war. I just want a decent life. But what really kills me is this awful bit of land where I’ve had to build a tent.”

This desolate wasteland, in the shadow of the motorway and a chemical factory on the outer edge of Calais, is France’s first official, state-sanctioned migrant slum. This week, pushed there by the state, around 1,000 migrants started building an open-air shanty town known as the new jungle. It marks a major turning point in the French approach to Calais’s intractable problem: the 1,500 migrants currently stuck in the coastal town while they wait to stow away on lorries to the UK. On this patch of wasteland there are no toilets, water or electricity, but it is a “tolerated zone” conveniently located outside the town centre. Charities have warned that by grouping more than 1,000 migrants in insalubrious conditions, the humanitarian situation will worsen.

Since the notorious Sangatte Red Cross centre, which once housed up to 2,000 migrants, was closed in 2002, migrants trying to get to the UK have eaten from charity soup kitchens and slept rough in Calais in illegal squats, slums and outdoor camps known as “jungles”, which have been bulldozed by police before cropping up elsewhere.

Now the French state has, for the first time in years, made a gesture of opening an official day centre on the edge of Calais, where, from three military tents outdoors, one hot meal will be handed out per day. When the Jules Ferry day centre becomes fully operational next week, for a few hours each afternoon, there will be access to showers, toilets, electricity points to recharge phones, and advice on migration and asylum issues. Around 50 women and children will be able to sleep the night there. But, crucially, there is no accommodation for men.

Instead, more than 1,000 men have been forced to sleep rough on wasteland nearby. At the furthest point, the sprawling camp is 1.2km (0.7 miles) from the nearest tap. Scabies, diarrhoea, skin diseases and stomach bugs are already present.

Charities say the day centre itself is an important step, but not enough. They warn that pushing migrants to sleep on the wasteland, exposed to the elements, risks the same problem that plagued Sangatte: too high a concentration of different nationalities led to tension, fights, desperation and targeting by traffickers.

“I didn’t believe places like this could exist,” said Shahin, an Afghan physics graduate. “At night it’s like a horror movie, the wind thrashing the plastic sheeting makes a terrifying noise. I have to walk 15 minutes to the centre to bring water in a jerry can.”

He said he would keep trying to hide under lorries to get to England but hoped to avoid paying a trafficker €1,000 (£730). Others had succeeded in reaching England after trying for between two weeks to five months, but it was hard.

Some ended up in Belgium after chasing lorries in the wrong direction. Last year, at least 15 migrants died, many in traffic accidents trying to board trucks. Some in the camp have bone fractures and breaks from falling from lorries.

Christian Salomé, of the association L’Auberge des Migrants, said: “This must be one of the worst refugee camps in the world. Even in African camps they have water and toilets. It’s just a wasteland.

“People call it Sangatte Two. But it isn’t Sangatte Two, it’s much worse. At least Sangatte was run by the Red Cross: this is just a slum. When 1,000 people have to beg wood for heat, there could be fights out of desperation. I’m worried about people’s survival.”

Céline Barré, of the charity Secours Catholique, said: “At least Sangatte had a roof, this is Sangatte in the open air.”

Afghans were building a mosque out of wooden pallets, Ethiopians were using plastic sheeting for a makeshift church, and a former Afghan policeman was neatly piling up cans of Red Bull, razors and tinned chickpeas under a wood-and-plastic-sheeting structure spray-painted “shop”. He said: “I go to Lidl, which is very expensive, and add a 10p mark-up.”

The charity Médecins du Monde were digging five basic latrines and had handed out 400 sleeping bags and 130 tents in recent days. Jean-François Corty, its director of French missions, said: “It is stupefying that French authorities are, in an official way, setting up a shanty town. We’re having to mobilise a humanitarian operation in a country that is the fifth economic power in the world.”

Jean-Claude Lenoir of Salam, a migrant charity, said: “It’s a good thing that the Jules Ferry day centre has opened, it shows the state has recognised that these migrants exist. But it’s not enough.”

Through the line of men queueing for a meal, Sarah, an Eritrean in her 30s, wheeled her one-year-old asleep in a pushchair. When pregnant, she and her husband, “escaping violence and rape”, had paid €2,500 (£1,825) each to board boats to Italy. He had drowned.

She had been trying and failing to board lorries to Kent at night and hide among merchandise, with her child in a sling under her jacket. She was now sleeping at the new Jules Ferry centre but said she still did not feel safe. Other women said walking through the nearby camp of men scared them.

Charity workers were concerned that more than 100 people living in the make-shift tents in the “new jungle” had already claimed asylum in France but still had no accommodation. After Calais streamlined its asylum application process, 500 people have claimed asylum there in the past five months – half of them have refugee status – with many from Sudan.

Sitting on a wooden pallet, Ali, who arrived from Afghanistan last month, said: “My animals didn’t live like this. At least they had a shed. I don’t care if I die trying to get to England. Looking round here, what’s left to lose?”

The migrants’ names have been changed

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