As winter looms, migrant children sleep rough in France
CALAIS (Reuters) It’s one year since the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, northern France was demolished but the area is still a magnet for migrants trying to reach the UK.
With no Jungle camp and the burning down of an official shelter in nearby Dunkirk earlier this year, many migrants are resorting to living in tents and makeshift shelters in wooded areas near Calais and Dunkirk.
They are totally reliant on unofficial volunteer help for food and washing facilities, despite a court order for French authorities to provide better care for them.
Sleeping rough, with little access to organised support combined with constantly being chased by the police, is damaging the mental as well as physical health of the migrants, say charity workers.
As winter approaches, it is the children and unaccompanied young people who are suffering the most.
An Afghan boy, Nabi, who is 13-years-old, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation he was trying to get to the UK illegally. He was sleeping rough in a disused industrial estate.
“Me go two o’clock, three o’clock. Very cold, not sleeping. Sleeping and police come in and spray. Security, dogs.”
He has travelled alone across 13 countries from Afghanistan to northern France in a gruelling journey that he needs to make count, for the sake of his parents who have spent thousands to get him this far.
“It’s a problem, border is closed. We go try again, come back, go try again, come back. Leg, back is all problem. This is life.”
Although the “Jungle” camp was demolished one year ago, a squalid shanty town that housed thousands, charities and authorities estimate about 700 migrants have returned to the area and are sleeping rough in parks or forests.
A Kurdish family from Iraq are among them in the woods near Dunkirk. They fled their homeland after being persecuted as Christians.
With four young children, life is hard living rough. “Everything is hard here. It is very hard for my children to live here, they cannot go to school and they don’t have a future. I can not even bathe them,” said their mother Harwin Ibrahim, who has relatives seeking asylum in the UK.
Charities and migrants said local police would slash tents and forcibly evict migrants in the dead of night using tear gas and dogs to prevent a new “jungle” from forming.