Community, Diaspora and Immigration

Africanmigrant queue at Calais

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They are desperate, defiant – and determined to get to England. 

Many had scaled mountains, crossed deserts and sailed across an ocean to get here. 

Some of their companions had drowned, perished from starvation or been arrested before they made it.

Little wonder that on Friday, above a shoreline from which they could see the White Cliffs of Dover, these refugees, homeless chancers and would-be migrants, mainly from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia, were so confident that a new life in Britain would be the next stop.

This is the latest illegal encampment to spring up in Calais – and hundreds are currently waiting for the first chance to escape.

They have nicknamed it Jungle 2 – a squalid, tented squat on the outskirts of the French port. The previous one in the town was bulldozed two months ago. 

That followed the clearance in 2009 of the original Jungle area on the outskirts, and the razing of the notorious Sangatte refugee centre in 2002.

All of that was meant to have put an end to the constant, ever-growing flow of hopefuls waiting to cross the Channel by any means possible. 

All it did was to drive them to other parts of Calais.

Desperate: Two migrants try to break into a container lorry

Desperate: Two migrants try to break into a container lorry

And so, Jungle 2 is currently a miserable but convenient stepping-stone to the UK for more than 500 itinerants, a population rapidly swelling with families fleeing Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia.

So it is not surprising that on Friday – despite threats of eviction, alleged beatings from police and an international outcry by homeless charities and migrant help groups – so many insisted they would stay for as long as it takes to get to England.

As one teenage Eritrean put it: ‘We will get there eventually.’

The new Jungle is situated on the seaward side of a road used by lorries heading to the port. 

It is a swathe of wasteland and sand dunes, owned and used by a chemical factory to bury supposedly non-toxic waste. 

Many of the migrants are men in their twenties, sometimes accompanied by women and children. 

They spend nights under canvas with no drinking water or sanitary facilities – then attempt to leap on UK bound trucks about to board ferries. 

Others attempt to cut their way into trailers at truckers’ cafés, where drivers rest before crossing to the UK.

Large numbers of Africans started to arrive after being evicted from squats in Calais and random camps on the outskirts of town, joining Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis evicted from previous camps.

They were among thousands of migrants who have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe and a better life.

Many have perished either from drowning or suffocation on overcrowded fishing boats they sailed in.

Luckier ones were rescued by the Italian navy after their boats got into difficulties near the island of Lampedusa, 100 miles from Sicily.

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