Makeshift school serves Calais refugees
When refugees imagine the amount of time they will be living in an encampment, they probably do not anticipate staying long — their minds already drift to a possible future beyond the camp’s makeshift walls.

However, as more refugees flee from conflicted countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Africa, these supposedly temporary living arrangements are beginning to become communities of their own. For a camp in Calais, France, mosques, churches, shops, a barber and, as of last month, a school can be found in the encampment for those passing through.

According to an article by the global campaign A World at School, the largest camp in the northern part of Calais and Western Europe is known as “the Jungle,” housing as many as 3,000 immigrants who wait in the hopes of gaining entrance into the United Kingdom.

Near the Jungle is the English Channel tunnel, known for its connection between France and England, which serves as a potential point of entry for migrants. Despite the danger and increased security around the border zones, migrants are willing to risk everything for the chance to jump on trains and lorries bound for the UK.

Meanwhile, refugees attempt to include aspects of normalcy into their everyday schedules by attending school or passing the time playing a game of dominoes. Makeshift tents and poorly constructed buildings make up the encampment, which is filled with people who have already survived the dangerous trek from their homes in the Middle East and Africa.

Today, it is not uncommon to see a school inside of a refugee camp, so when refugees started asking how to say French words or numbers, a makeshift school was created by Nigerian Zimarco Jones. It was soon up and running, staffed with the help of French volunteers.

Constructed from materials such as branches and wood panels, the makeshift school seats 20 students and faces a blackboard. Since its establishment in July, it has been given the name L’Ecole Laïque du Chemin des Dunes, which translates to The Secular School of Dune Way.

Mostly young men attend the school to learn both English and French and other subjects, but Jones plans to build an additional school for the more than 20 children and 200 women who live in the camp.

The current state of conflict in the world has displaced an astronomical number of children from their homes, wreaking havoc on their childhoods and robbing them of their education. Fortunately, there are opportunities that can be found in those temporary homes and stops along the way to their final destination — some place they earnestly look forward to one day calling home.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: A World at School, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2
Photo: Al Jazeera America

Many refugees in Calais, France are using any means possible — most of them using rather dangerous means — to make their way to Britain in hopes of a new life.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants sit in refugee camps in Calais waiting to make their next attempt into the United Kingdom. Many of these individuals have traveled all the way from Africa, the Middle East and some from even further away. For most, sanctuary in Britain is the last stop on a very long journey that may have lasted for months, with hopes that a better life and more opportunities await them on the other side of the English Channel.

In France, where many migrants await the next move, which may potentially land them in Britain, lie refugee camps filled with hundreds of thousands of migrants from all around the world. Many have fled injustice and corruption within their native countries, such as that of Sudan, Eritrea and other crime-ridden and infamously violent nations.

Within the camps are volunteers and medical staff to help those who have been injured or have fallen ill throughout their long journeys. Nurses in the camps have recounted a number of cases where individuals have even been hit by trains and fallen off moving trains while trying to make their way across the Channel. This is a horrific image to imagine, but it is the reality of the extent people in these circumstances are willing to go to make it to their final destination. The legitimacy of their travels is backed by the success of others. An estimated 40 people actually make it across each day, though the numbers have varied greatly. Those who have been successful give those still struggling the hope they need to keep going.

With all these people from around the world flooding the entrance to the United Kingdom, both Britain and France have asked for more intervention, particularly from other members of the European Union. The French government has upped its security measures by increasing the number of police officers at the French side of the Channel as well as implementing other new security means. However, with the number of migrants in the hundreds of thousands at least, and a handful of migrants making their way to the UK each day, there obviously is a need for more assistance in order for the two countries to maintain border security.

This issue has been going on since the beginning of June, and a recorded 10 migrants have died in the journey specifically from Calais to the other end of the Channel. This is an issue of international security for which no clear solution has been found thus far, neither the migrants seeking refuge nor the European nations themselves.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: The New York Times, BBC
Photo: The New York Times

The French government has pledged to provide €500,000 ($567,000) to a migrant town near Calais. The make-shift town has been a source of controversy for France and a point of criticism from the United Nations due to poor sanitation standards and treatment of migrants.

This camp, dubbed “New Jungle” by locals, is home to an estimated 4,000 migrant workers who left their home countries to find work and refugee status in Great Britain. When high security prevented them from crossing the English Chanel the migrants were left stranded in France, in a political limbo.

The majority of the migrants are sans papiers (without papers) and have a difficult time finding work or government aid without legal documentation. When opportunities in France dwindle, the migrants (including women and children) are left without a place to go except for the camps.

Last year, the government of France shut down another nearby migrant town nicknamed the “Jungle”. The area had had humanitarian groups concerned for several years.

Since the area was not a legal town, it did not have any government protection nor requirements to meet health standards. Makeshift tents surrounded the area, and the undocumented migrants living there had little to no access to water, electricity or food resources.

The destruction of the camp only resulted in the creation of another migrant camp north of Calais, the current “New Jungle”. Like its predecessor, New Jungle has been condemned by the United Nations.

Philippe Leclerc, a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, described living conditions as “absolutely appalling”.

New Jungle residents are often surrounded by garbage and there is no running water. Although there are surrounding towns, several of the migrant workers fear leaving due to worries about racial discrimination and hate crimes.

As a result, sanitation standards are very low and the migrant workers have very little opportunities to buy food or seek medical attention.

The current aid will lessen some of the migrant workers’ woes. The French government will begin working on plans to provide running water, electricity and better access to medical care for the migrants.

Part of the money will also go into creating sturdier homes in the New Jungle and another 10,500 lodgings throughout France. These lodgings will be available to men, women and children who currently reside in France as migrants.

While the European Union believes it is a step in the right direction, the French government worries for how long this can last. France has experienced large amounts of migrants entering the country for the past 15 years. However, current crises in the Middle East and Africa have caused more people to enter France in the past six months.

Brigitte Lips, a Calais resident, states, “The ones who make it here have already escaped death several times. They’ve crossed war-torn Sudan, then the Libyan desert, and then packed into rickety boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea.”

As long as war and poverty continue to grow in regions such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan and Syria the amount of refugees and migrants entering France will continue to increase.

Erendira Jimenez

Sources: UNHCR, Express, NPR
Photo: Express