Stories of persecution
In their own words, 22 inmates of the Calais Jungle tell their stories. Some escaped the Taliban or Isis with nothing, having had parents and siblings murdered. Others fled their homeland, having been targeted for nothing more than membership of a particular ethnic group.
The journeys to get to Europe were invariably horrific. Being an undocumented migrant makes you easy prey for robbers, unscrupulous employers and vicious police. The ordeal does not stop once you reach Europe - one refugee described the Bulgarian police deliberately setting dogs on him and his friends. They received several bites, as well as brutal police beatings.
Life in the Calais Jungle was a shock for many - was this really Europe? Some found comradeship and solidarity across borders, making use of the school, library and other DIY facilities in the makeshift camp. One refugee from Afghanistan said: “I lived ten years in the UK, but maybe I haven’t made such friendships as I did during six months in Calais.”
But others met a cold brutality from the police and some locals. One inmate, a doctor, was summoned at 1am to help three battered young men, who had been attacked in town by men with metal bars and left nearly unconscious. He called an ambulance - none came. With the help of volunteers, he got them to Calais Hospital, where for the first hour they were met with complete indifference.
Leaving the Jungle was usually expensive and involved paying smugglers thousands of euros. It was dangerous, sometimes fatally so, as desperate migrants sought to get on or under vehicles travelling to Britain.
Some made it to the UK. Others, sometimes injured trying, gave up. Those who did faced penury and racist hostility while waiting for their asylum applications to be processed. For all those interviewed, the reality of their lives fell a long way short of their dreams for a better future. But for those granted asylum, their hopes remain very much alive.