Dead End: The Calais Crisis

A touching look at the human side of the headlines as the historic French town of Calais becomes the reluctant host to thousands of refugees fleeing war and terror in Africa and the Middle East. People had set out for the UK; instead languish here in tents and make-shift huts where their journey reaches a dead end. Unable to cross the British border legally, many take extreme risks for a chance to make the crossing as stowaways. Local police wage a constant battle to prevent the refugees from getting into the tunnel while the local population is becoming increasingly polarised on the issue.

The squalid camp that the refugees call home has been dubbed, “the jungle” and the French government leaves it to its own devices. What little help they get comes from various independent charities. The refugees try to make the most of their circumstances, with some setting up shops and other amenities in the tent town. Many utilise existing skills to provide a service for the community such as cooking or hairdressing. Every one though is desperate for a real job, many have professional qualifications or are university educated but with high levels of unemployment among the local population, the migrants’ opportunities are few and far between.

Local people themselves are divided over their newest neighbours, for some, the refugees are a threat that has to be eliminated; others see the travellers as displaced unfortunates who only need humanity and a helping hand. As these opposing views clash, tensions in both the town and the camp itself, have been rising. Stuck in a make-shift camp that fails to cater even to basic needs like fresh water or warmth; and unable to move on to their intended destination, desperation sets in for many refugees, sparking violent clashes inside the camp.

Related: Syrian refugee families struggle to start a new life in Lebanon

Apparently unable to offer a meaningful solution, authorities assume the role of passive observer but this camp is just one small part of a global problem to which there can be no quick or simple solutions, only a complex multifaceted approach and international cooperation.

Some call them refugees, others say they’re migrants.  There are even suggestions that would-be terrorists hide among them.  It’s easy to forget that most importantly, they are people, this is their story.