'England seems like a promised land': Inside the Calais migrant camp

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The migrant camp in Calais is somewhere no one would want to live.

Unless, of course, you’re fleeing somewhere much worse.

It’s bleak.

Filthy.

The conditions at the migrant camp in Calais are treacherous. But hundreds tough it out in hope for a better life in the UK. (9news)
A weedy field next to an electrical substation, covered in rubbish and smelling of human waste.

When we visit it’s still dark.

Just after 7.30am, the temperature is around 5 degrees - much colder with the wind chill.

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Rain is coming, and young men huddle around campfires.

One isn’t fuelled by wood, but petrol or kerosene.

The men, mostly from African nations and Iran, are awake and tell me they’re waiting for the police to come.

It’s a near daily occurrence now.

The officers move in, tell some to move on and take some away for questioning.

9News visited the Calais camp where temperatures drop to five degrees in the morning and even colder when the wind picks up. (9news)
We’re allowed to film, but the commander is firm.

We must be beyond the police cordon.

This latest crackdown is a response to the surge in migrants making the dangerous journey across the English Channel in small inflatable boats.

Indeed, for many of the people I talk to, England seems like a promised land.

“We’re trying to get to England because we have a lot of English community there. ’Cause I’m an English speaker so I want to go to England,” says “John”.

He tells me he’s from southern Cameroon, and has fled persecution.

The latest crackdown by authorities is due to the surge of migrants taking extreme and risky measures to get into the UK. (9news)
I ask him if he’s scared to cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes on a cold dark night with no lights.

“It is dangerous but I’ve already done the Mediterranean .. so it’s not new,” he says.

He’s not alone.

At least 239 people have reached English shores in the past two months.

The reason for the increase in arrivals could be many, and varied.

So far this English winter has been relatively mild.

Brexit, due in just three months, is expected to result in a tightening of border controls.

It’s also getting harder and harder to jump on the trucks that cross from Calais to Dover, on either a ferry or through the Channel Tunnel.

Migrants from the Calais camp are using flimsy inflatable boats and risking their lives to get across the water to Dover. (9news)
“Jaber” is from Iran.

He’s already tried to make the crossing on a small boat.

“In the middle of the sea, we didn’t know what to do, so we called the police station and they came in the middle of the sea and they arrested us,” he says.

He says they were near Britain, and rang 999, but a French patrol picked them up and brought therm back to Calais.

“Jaber” says he faced political persecution in Iran.

His wife, and two children went to the UK two years ago.

He’s now trying to join them, and says he’ll make the attempt again.

“Me, myself, prefer to die in the sea, because my children think that I am doing nothing to go to UK so if they understand that I died in the sea they really understand that have done everything I can to get them but I couldn’t,” he says.

Jaber is from Iran. He has already tried and failed to make it across the English Channel to a better life in the UK. (9news)
The British Government has been forced into action after a series of landings since Christmas.

It’s sending two extra Border Force vessels to patrol the Channel.

More CCTV and surveillance drones will be used on French beaches.

The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is firm.

“We need to send a very clear message to people that if they take this journey, they take their life into their own hands,” he says.

The minister has also raised questions about the validity of their asylum claims.

International law says asylum should be sought in the first “safe country’ migrants enter.

The men who are in France, have made their way their across a continent, and many wait until they reach Britain to claim asylum.

The migrants are desperate to make their way to the UK before Brexit causes tighter border control in three months. (AAP)
There are no easy answers here though, as the residents who live along the southern English coast know.

John Kerney lives in Kent, near where many have come ashore.

“It’s human nature that you wanna give a better life to your kids and your family, but I don’t know how long we can keep absorbing this,” he says.

It’s something Britain is now grappling with, albeit on a far smaller scale than the flood of refugees other European nations have seen over the past few years.

Government policy and practice is now scrambling to catch up, as the men in Calais sleep in their sodden tents for another night.

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019

https://www.9news.com.au/2019/01/10/18/52/europe-news-calais-migrant-camp
 

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