ABUL TAHER visits the jungle camp in Calais, saying you pay a fee and they will continue to put you on a boat


Sitting cross-legged in front of makeshift shelters, the men enthusiastically examine the tide tables, trying to trace the best time to cross the Channel.

The new Calais Jungle camp, a bushy field near the main hospital, is a sort of tent waiting room.

So few have arrived in Britain from the infamous old settlement, which closed in 2016, that it has become synonymous with despair.

But this slum resonates with hope and anticipation. It is possible to pass, they say to newcomers.

More than possible. Many do it every day: all you have to do is wait – and eventually you will be called.

These days, the passage to England is relatively inexpensive – as little as £ 350 in some cases.

By far the most difficult journey for migrants is to Calais, and every day brings new arrivals from Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Egypt.

The new Jungle camp in Calais, a bushy field near the main hospital, is a sort of tent waiting room

What a difference from a few years ago when it was the last step that seemed so hopelessly out of reach.

Back then, I watched migrants trying night after night to get on moving trains, a perilous endeavor with a pitifully low success rate.

Now, however, even if a migrant fails the first time around and their boat is intercepted, they just have to keep trying until they get it right.

While this is far from risk-free, in most cases he – or she – will.

Better yet, says Sajid Ali Khan, 21, of Lahore, Pakistan, you only pay one tax.

Khan was a mechanic in Germany for two years but when his work permit was not renewed he came to Calais to go to Britain where he has friends.

“There were 13 of us, from all different countries, including four women with children,” he tells me. No sooner had the boat sailed a mile across the English Channel when the French Coast Guard appeared. After being returned to France, the migrants were released without arrest.

Normally, when migrants are intercepted, they are detained for at least 24 hours and their fingerprints determine which European country they are from so that they can be returned to that country under the Dublin agreement.

But Khan said, “They just let us go, so I’ll try again. We paid 2000 euros [£1,800] to the Iranians who say they’ll put me on a boat as many times as it takes to get across to England. They are telling the truth because I know others have walked this path.

A concrete path from the Calais hospital roundabout takes you into the new Jungle, its entrance guarded by a National Police van. Everywhere there are charred circles from bonfires, many of which are left behind by those who are now in England.

Trees with mutilated branches torn for firewood dot the camp and yesterday I heard loud chants in Arabic and Farsi, a stark contrast to the subdued tension of the 2016 camp.

Local charities estimate that around 1,500 migrants live in Calais, all ready to go to Britain. Others, mainly from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Chad, occupy a disused industrial park on rue des Garennes, three kilometers away.

Back in the new jungle, Khan scoffs at plans to use the Royal Navy to stop migrants. “If they make it harder in one way, we’ll find another solution,” he says, sipping coffee and munching on bread provided by a local charity that provides three meals a day.

Beside him stands Abebe Haile, 34, an Ethiopian from the capital Addis Ababa, who claims to have fled death threats because he was an opposition politician.

“The British government should welcome us, not refuse us,” he said. ‘Ask him [Home Secretary Priti Patel] when she wears clothes, where does cotton come from? When she drinks coffee, where does it come from? It comes from Africa. They should respect us. We will keep trying no matter what.

Large numbers of refugees try to make the crossing every day. These days, passage to England is relatively inexpensive - as little as £ 350 in some cases

Large numbers of refugees try to make the crossing every day. These days, passage to England is relatively inexpensive – as little as £ 350 in some cases

His determination is typical of others at camp.

According to official figures, more than 3,500 migrants reached the UK this year from Calais, including a record 235 out of 17 boats last Thursday.

As of Friday, 130 arrived aboard 13 boats and more than 2,000 entered the country using the route in June alone – more than four times the known total of 500 for all of 2018.

Back in the new jungle, migrants use the trees as clotheslines, drape jeans, T-shirts, and even Islamic prayer rugs over the branches to dry.

The ground below is littered with food and carrying bags full of trash.

Poppy Cleary, a British volunteer working for the L’Auberge des Migrants charity, dismisses the accusation that organizations like hers encourage migrants to converge on Calais.

“They are leaving their homes because their countries are bombed. They are refugees. What is wrong with providing food, shelter and drinking water on such a hot day? she says.

As we walk over the rugged terrain, a group of Syrians emerge from under their tarp and surround me.

Abu Amir, 31, says he is from the war-ravaged city of Aleppo and has been in Calais for ten months. He was a pharmacist in Syria and believes he can resume that career if he can travel to Britain.

“The agents can put you on a boat for 350 euros. I’ve done it once before, but got caught. I’ll try again, ”he said.

He is dismissive when told that it is difficult to become a legal resident in the UK and that fulfilling his dream of becoming a pharmacist may prove impossible.

“There is nothing here in France,” he said. “I know there is security and work in Britain.


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