26. Oktober 2016 · Kommentare deaktiviert für ‘I Am Alone’: Migrant Children in Calais ‘Jungle’ Face an Uncertain Fate · Kategorien: Europa

Quelle: NY Times 21.10.16


CALAIS, France — They left their countries, mostly Afghanistan, Ethiopia or Eritrea. They traveled with smugglers, walked across countries and continents, crossed mountains and rough seas, and endured airless trunks, thieves and muggers.

And many are just 10 to 17 years old.

They are the 1,300 or so children of the Jungle, as the sprawling migrant camp outside the French port of Calais is known. Most have arrived here without family, sometimes with the blessing of parents, sometimes not.

After harrowing journeys, they have camped with some 6,000 to 10,000 other migrants, depending on who is doing the counting, awaiting a chance to sneak into Britain to reunite with family or friends. They speak no French, little English, and their futures are anything but certain.

The fates of these young people have become a major sticking point in determining the Jungle’s shaky future. The French government announced plans on Friday to demolish the camp for the second time this year, starting Monday. But first it needs to figure out what to do about the children.

Britain is allowing in a thin trickle — those with relatives in the country — after negotiations described as tough by French officials. For the rest, the French government has pledged to take care of them, in housing facilities set aside for young people.

In interviews in the Jungle Books Kids Cafe, a shack hung with fabrics and a poster of a London bus, a number of the Jungle’s young people sat on donated sofas this week and described their journeys in halting English or Pashto.

These boys have the smooth faces of youth but the quick and wary movements of those who have suffered and expect more.

Each country traversed is marked by a particular set of hardships or, more rarely, kindnesses — journeys “full of dangers and experiences,” as Wassal, a smiling black-haired Afghan of “about 14” said, with wonder in his voice.

The only connection between the experiences is danger, in the boys’ telling.

“A very, very high mountain in Iran,” Wassal said. “When you were putting your hands for climbing, it was like knives. We walked for 14 hours on that mountain. We were very thirsty there.”

In Iran, the smugglers put him and three others in the trunk of a car to hide them from the authorities.

“There was rubber,” he recalled, “and it was not letting the air to come in. Every part of your body was hitting the side of the trunk.”

Bandits tried to stop the car.

“We wouldn’t stop. They started firing, by Kalashnikovs. It was very dangerous,” Wassal said. “If they had shot the car, it would have been two or three dead.”

Finally, he arrived in Bulgaria.

“We were walking for 10 days in Bulgaria,” Wassal said. “We were near to getting weak because no food or water.”

“We have used many vehicles, many movements of our body — running, skipping, hiding, walking sometimes,” he said. “I walked a very far distance.”

Others had similarly harrowing, if disjointed, stories, filled with fears and traumas.

Ayub, 16 and wafer-thin, recalled how he left his home in the restive Oromia region of Ethiopia one night after taking part in antigovernment protests.

“When I called my mother, she cried,” he said. “She said, ‘You come home.’ I said, ‘I can’t.’”

After that, he was on his own.

“I crossed the desert,” he said. “I am alone.”

Once on the other side of the desert, there was a 12-day boat journey from Egypt to Italy.

“The food finished after six days,” Ayub recalled. Three people on his boat died.

“We drank the salt water,” he said. “I wanted to fall in the water.”

In Paris, he slept for four nights on the sidewalk before the Red Cross took him in.

Nurullah, 15, the son of an Afghan farmer, said that “because of the problems with the Taliban, it was compulsory that I leave.”

His parents “were very anxious and worried about me,” he said in Pashto, through a translator.

Nurullah made his way to Hungary, where “the police were ordered to shoot,” he said. “They were hitting the people. There were many dogs they were letting on us.”

Alikh, 12, a slight Afghan with bushy eyebrows, traveled through seven countries — Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Italy — with “friends” before reaching France. In Iran, the police beat him, and in Bulgaria there was no food or water.

Few of these young people look back or complain, however. All want to go to Britain and believe they will eventually make it, with or without relatives there.

“This journey was better than that I submit to the terrorist organizations,” Wassal said firmly.

For now, they spend their days shooting pool, tussling among themselves or dodging the sprawling migrant camp’s adults, who are not always benevolent.

At night, many play the same risky, rarely successful game as the adults: sneaking onto trucks, trains or ferries for passage to Britain’s perceived El Dorado. Again and again, they are caught by the police and turned back.

“This is not life, in the Jungle,” said Saleh al-Matar, 17, a bright-eyed Syrian who left behind his elderly father, who was too weak to travel. “Everything here is difficult. The simple things, to go to the toilet — you are scared to go to the toilet.”

Had he known what the Jungle was like, he would not have gotten into that “very small boat” between Turkey and Greece to “risk my life,” the young man said.

But Saleh ended up as one of the lucky ones. By Wednesday, he escaped the Jungle and was admitted to Britain, where he has a brother.

The French authorities are determined to tear down the Jungle, citing not just the dangers but the disruption the camp poses to the port of Calais, which sits at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel that runs to Britain.

Not least, the camp has become one of the most glaring manifestations of Europe’s failure to deal with the migrant crisis. For all those reasons, the French authorities want it gone.

The 6,000 to 10,000 migrants in the Jungle will then be bused to vacant government-owned housing all over France.

This week, Patrick Visser-Bourdon, a French police official, strode down the Jungle’s central alley, flanked by a phalanx of well-armed riot police, some carrying shields.

Making his way along the gravel path, the police official spread the word among the camp’s makeshift restaurants — smiling, smoking a cigarette, clapping migrants on the back — but letting them know that the Jungle’s days were numbered.

“I’m telling them that I can destroy,” he said. “It’s a legal decision, everything has to be closed.”

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