In Calais: Undocumented migrants vow to try to reach UK

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption Migrants hold out hope of making it to England

Illegal immigrants in Calais have vowed to try to reach Britain once again, while investigating their options in France.

Most are classed as economic migrants, who are referred to here as ‘camps’.

The BBC’s Stephen Wright spent a week among the foreign nationals.

Our team recorded information on where and when the migrants arrived, where they would go, how they live and where they would go to claim asylum in Britain.

One man with the nickname Cesena spent 11 months in Calais’ Jungle camp, but has managed to get himself a home in nearby Gandalen.

Like the many other migrants this reporter met, he can be heard cursing the authorities and being dismissive of the promises of a better life.

“We have the same problem in Britain. The same problems,” he says.

Alongside him another young man, seen by our team as part of the Union, describes his future: “One day we’ll be in Calais, one day we’ll be in England, one day we’ll go for Denmark.”

Not all migrants, like Mohamed Umar, have mobile phones to speak with their families. They spend much of their time watching TV or talking to each other via loud speaker on a hot plate.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption A Calais boy watches the latest scenes on TV

Their living conditions are deplorable. Despite promises by the French authorities, they have no shops or toilets to go to. Many are women and children, who spend their nights sleeping on the floor.

The government has not addressed this problem properly, with some migrants complaining about the treatment of children in particular.

“Calais should be no different to other cities in the world, people should just live as normal people,” says a man called Marcus.

But politics are high on the agenda for many migrants.

Other men watching English football highlights suggest that the current debate in France about immigration is connected to the Calais crisis.

“It’s another tactic to attract the whole French population to party with the leftwing, to bring in the circus to keep people with fake reasons,” one tells our photographer.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption A migrant watches English soccer goals

The Calais situation is complex. Charities warn against closing the refugee camp.

But attempts by authorities to evacuate the Jungle, as well as the French authorities’ attempts to secure the areas surrounding it, mean the majority of refugees have returned to their original home.

Conditions in the Port d’Essai are also not ideal, with traffickers offering access to mobile phones and money for migrants.

Some 600,000 migrants are estimated to be in Libya, but Calais authorities say that the situation there is more stable.

A section of the port is reserved for foreigners with business or education licences, where work permits are issued.

About 250 migrants were arrested during Operation Sangatte, the French government’s controversial centre-run camp which closed down in 2002.

But it is impossible to give an exact figure for those who are hoping to reach the UK.

In 2001, a UN committee appointed by the Security Council gave an average estimate of 78,000 people per year who sought to get to Britain, Italy, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Crowds line the barrier between Belgium and France on the motorway to Dunkirk

But the real figure has been higher, with an estimated 813,000 migrants from all over the world before Operation Stack closed the Channel Tunnel for four months in 2006.

Some politicians say France needs to work more closely with the UK.

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb, who pledged when he took office to clean up Calais, has been accused of hiding the number of migrants.

Britain’s Home Secretary says an over-concentration of people in one area is never good for the situation.

But these are young people with stories to tell.

One of them tells the story of how they travelled from Egypt to Libya, where they were held in a camps for more than a year.

Finally, one tells his story – him, the middle-aged man, and one of his nephews, aged eight or nine.

He explains what he would like to do – in his own language.

First published on the BBC News website.

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