Grand Synthe, France – Sandwiched between a suburban housing estate and a community football field, a few thousand mostly Kurdish refugees are living a life of soiled uncertainty in an informal camp just outside Dunkirk.
The majority of refugees in the Dunkirk camp, as well in as the more infamous Calais Refugee Camp 40km to the west along the northern coast, are hoping to reach the UK. Many have relatives and jobs waiting for them once they arrive.
However, a recently erected five-metre fence topped with coils of razor wire around the port at Calais has hindered their journey. Among other measures, the fence is part of a £12 million ($17m) plan Britain agreed to in 2014 to stop the entry of refugees from the city. It is making the crossing extremely difficult and dangerous for those who can’t afford the exorbitant prices that smugglers charge. It is also encouraging refugees to try to cross via the Dunkirk port.
Currently the number of people in the camp has increased to nearly 3,000, with more arriving each day, the majority from Syria, Iraq and Iran.
French authorities have informed the local French community that the camp will be relocated soon to a yet undetermined location. Plans include a camp that would meet basic humanitarian standards and provide a larger capacity than Dunkirk.
Refugees and volunteers express frustration with how they have been treated by the police, especially when the government has offered no aid and informal groups of international volunteers have provided the bulk of the relief.