Steady flow of refugees enters new MSF camp in Dunkirk but many still aim to take risky journey to the UK.
Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France – The demolition of part of a vast and infamous refugee camp in Calais, known as ‘the Jungle’, is forcing people into new makeshift settlements in the surrounding area.
Al Jazeera found two such sites in the area on Thursday – one near a service station a few kilometres from Calais and another that was an expansion of an existing site further into the French countryside.
Aid workers said that as many as six new camps had sprung up since authorities started dismantling the southern part of ‘the Jungle’ nearly two weeks ago.
These new camps, which residents also referred to as ‘jungles’, house anywhere from 15 to 150 people and are located near service stations and truck stops.
At one site, Al Jazeera saw a group of men sneak on to a truck heading to the nearby Calais port.
One of the men, an Afghan, said he and his friends had not eaten for two days.
“I came here from the [Calais] Jungle … we sleep close to here, but the police are watching us … we have no food, no showers,” the man said.
At the second site – further away from the city – Al Jazeera saw scores of refugees, mainly Eritrean and Sudanese, crammed into tents in a woodland area off a narrow country road.
The site existed before the demolition at the main Calais camp started, but it has seen its population more than double from 60 to 150 since the clearance operation began.
|Some refugees have left the Calais ‘Jungle’ to set up new camps near the neighbouring town of Dunkirk [Shafik Mandhai/Al Jazeera]|
“It’s cold, very cold, inside the tent; there is no heat,” said Josef, an Eritrean refugee living in the camp.
The camp had no visible sanitation facilities but a local Christian community group was providing meals and the use of showers and toilets during the day.
Many of the refugees said they were fleeing political repression and war and that they had entered Europe via sea routes to Italy and Greece, before travelling on to France.
At a feeding centre run by the Christian group a few kilometres from the site, Al Jazeera spoke to Hassan Tayeb, who said he was a journalist and that he had fled his native Sudan six months ago.
“In my country, I can’t speak my mind … I can be killed for what I say, is that anyway to live?
“Where do I go if I don’t want to kill or be killed myself? The other men where I live fight but I don’t want to do that … why should I?”
Tayeb said he wanted to go to Britain because he had family there and speaks fluent English.
Aid worker Abdelkader Bergoug, who showed the sites to Al Jazeera, said many refugees started leaving the Calais camp when the French authorities announced their intention to start pulling the southern part of it down.
“People started to move out about three weeks before the destruction took place because they heard about the announcement but the process has accelerated over the past few days,” Bergoug said.
The southern zone of the camp housed around 1,000 people according to the police, and more than 3,000 according to activist surveys.
Bergoug, who heads the Plan to Support and Assist Refugees organisation, said demolishing the dwellings would not prevent the flow of refugees to northern France.
“The [government’s] aim is to destroy the Jungle entirely … they might be able to but they are not going to stop refugees from coming,” he said.
“We’ll get refugees spreading out in small camps across the region. They’ll be playing cat and mouse.”
Follow Shafik Mandhai on Twitter: @ShafikFM