Voices From Calais: An introduction
September 17 - 2016 CALAIS, FRANCE
[image: Sudanese migrant in Calais camp on 14 September 2016 (Photo by
Sudanese migrant in Calais camp on 14 September 2016 (Photo by Radio
*The deteriorating situation in and around the refugee camp in Calais has
not deterred the refugees and migrants fleeing from conflict areas in
Africa and the Middle-East, to take shelter near the French port city.
Amongst them are many Sudanese migrants. The encampment remains the most
popular site to continue their long journey to the United Kingdom.
Reporting from the 'Jungle', Radio Dabanga will release stories, interviews
and photos over the coming period. Sudanese refugees tell about the journey
they have endured so far, the challenges of camp life, and their deep
desire to reach the UK.*
Sitting in a quiet courtyard between makeshift tents of plastic sheets and
blankets, Abbas Mohamed (32) from Nyala tells about his journey from
Darfur. He faced dangers in Libya and almost drowned in the Mediterranean
Sea, which he crossed in a container vessel.
Mohamed decided to flee because of the difficult security and economic
situation in Darfur, in search of a better future. He is not alone: about
2,000 Sudanese live in the Calais camp. Most of them have fled from the war
in the western region of Darfur.
Their large number may be explained by the desire they share to illegally
enter the United Kingdom, and start a life there. “Many hope to escape to
the UK,” Mohamed explains. “The difficult humanitarian conditions in the
Jungle do not hold them back.”
When speaking about Calais, camp residents invariably call it the 'Jungle',
a nickname they have given the crowded camp because they feel they are
treated like animals.
But Mohamed is in the Jungle to stay, for the moment, awaiting the decision
on his request for asylum in France. “Those in this camp who have applied
for asylum in France, have not been given a place to stay by the
authorities. They're homeless, so they come to Calais to await the decision
on their application.”
A Sudanese man emerges from one of the tents, carrying a tin plate to serve
coffee and tea. He travelled from El Gezira in central Sudan. Speaking in a
soft voice, the 28-year-old says he prefers not to give his name, concerned
that it will get him into trouble.
He confirms that refugee life in Calais is difficult. “We live in huts
built ourselves, of wood and plastic sheets, which do not protect us from
the cold, hail, and rain during the winter.”
*‘I don't want asylum in France.’*
In contrast to Mohamed, he decided not to apply for asylum in France.
“Firstly, it takes a long time to apply for asylum in France. Secondly, the
authorities refuse a lot of applications, what I've heard from other asylum
seekers. That's why I want to cross to the UK.”
Life in the Jungle starts late in the morning for most refugees, because
each night, they attempt to cross to the UK illegally. They stow away on
trucks, ferries, cars or trains. Much media attention has been focused at
the violence during this commotion, and to refugees who have been run-over,
hit by trains, and drowned in attempts to swim to England
Still, the migrant from El Gezira believes that Calais camp is the best
chance to succeed in illegally entering the UK. There is another refugee
camp in northern France at Dunkirk, and some planned in Paris, but Calais
is the biggest in terms of size.
In May, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) found that the largest group in
Calais was from Sudan, at around a third, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq,
Iran, Syria, Eritrea and Pakistan. Most of the migrants are young males.
No exact numbers of the population exist because there is no official
registration process in Calais camp. The United Nations refugee agency
(UNHCR) put the number at 4,000 in February this year, just before the
French authorities demolished the southern half of the camp.
But the move did not reduce their numbers: last month local authorities
said that 6,900
migrants and refugees live in the Jungle. Humanitarian NGOs such as Help
Refugees and Auberge des Migrants place that figure much higher, nearing
On 5 September, French truck drivers and farmers began a massive
demonstration on Calais’ roadways, threatening to block the northern French
port until the camp is dismantled. Residents of Calais joined in, worried
about a growing insecurity in their city, and fed-up with the failure of
French, British and European politicians to solve the migrant and
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