Jungle refugees and migrants 'will go to other squalid French camps if evicted'


Aid workers fear migrants and refugees will head to other squalid camps in France if mass evictions go ahead at the Jungle site in Calais.

There was no sign on Wednesday morning of anyone making attempts to pack up their belongings as people waited for news on a court ruling.

A decision on whether migrants and refugees in the southern part of the camp should be forced from their makeshift homes may not come from the court in Lille until tomorrow.

Save the Children said that if evictions do go ahead, people will simply move to other camps in the region, including the swamp-like Grande-Synthe site in Dunkirk.

Meanwhile, in the Jungle, some said they would be forced to leave behind close-knit communities, with shops, schools and churches, forged after fleeing war, poverty and persecution in their homelands.

For many of the approximately 4,000 people in the Jungle, reaching Britain either through the Channel Tunnel or via the Port of Calais is the ultimate goal.

Among them is Ibrahim, 28, from Darfur, Sudan, who said: "I have friends here. I want to get to England and make a better life. Life here is hard but what else is there?"

Amid the muddy puddles and rat infestation, Mahdi Behpodi, 23, from Tehran, Iran, said he wants to reach Britain to join his four uncles in Manchester.

He said: "The conditions here are terrible. We have nothing here. We have no heating, it's so cold, especially at night, and there are lots of problems with gangs.

"I don't know what's happening (about the evictions). All I can do is think about myself. Everyone here wants to get to England. I don't know how I'm going to get there but I have to do it."

French state authorities last week gave migrants and refugees until 8pm local time (7pm GMT) on Tuesday to quit their homes but their eviction has been held up by the court ruling.

Up to 1,000 people are reported to be affected by the plans to relocate them to heated containers or to centres around France, but aid workers say the figure could be much higher.

The Help Refugees charity said it carried out its own analysis showing there were 3,455 people living in the affected part of the Jungle.

Caroline Anning, of Save the Children, said: "Unfortunately, while the camp is not fit for habitation, conditions need to be improved.

"What they have built is not enough and there are not enough spaces for the unaccompanied children. There are no community centres nor the infrastructure to support refugees.

"People are not going to go there. They are going to go to another camp, in Dunkirk or elsewhere, where conditions are even worse.

"We really want them to put a pause on this and make sure the structures are in place before they go any further."

Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart said last week that the dismantling of the camp would keep migrants and refugees away from activists bent on causing disruption.

She said it was a "sensitive situation" that required "necessary firmness". And she added the conditions endured at the Jungle were "unworthy of human nature".

Plans to move people from part of the Jungle were announced by Prefect Fabienne Buccio, the top official in France's northern Pas-de-Calais region.

Ms Buccio said this month: "It's time to tell the migrants of Calais, who live in undignified conditions and give Calais an image that isn't dignified either, that we have a solution for each of you."

Fearing an influx of migrants and refugees from Calais, Belgium announced it was reintroducing border checks with France to block any Jungle evictees.

Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon said it was temporarily suspending the Schengen agreement on free movement to deal with people leaving the camp - some 20 miles from its border.

An estimated 4,000 migrants and refugees from countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq are currently based within the Jungle.

At the weekend, actor Jude Law and singer Tom Odell were among celebrities who took to the stage at the camp to raise the plight of refugees.

It came after 145 celebrities including Idris Elba, Helena Bonham Carter and Benedict Cumberbatch wrote an open letter calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to help save children based there.

They want the Government to step in and allow unaccompanied children living in the camp to be reunited with their families in the UK.