More than 10,000 people now live in the so-called Calais Jungle migrant camp near the port of Calais access point to the Channel Tunnel, a new census has revealed.
Migrants, some fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have amassed, in their thousands, on the French coast with the hope of making their way into the UK. But as the migrant crisis in the port continues, French authorities have been carrying out their strongest crackdown on migrants for five years, evicting, arresting, detaining or deporting migrants from France.
The population of the camp has risen above 10,000 for the first time, with the population now totalling 10,188 – according to a new census from L' Auberge des Migrants/ Help Refugees. This represents a 12% increase in the overall population since August.
The shocking new figures also reveal that the number of unaccompanied minors has increased by 51% month-on-month – bringing to 1,179 the number of underage youths in the camp, of which 87% are unaccompanied.
Of those surveyed for the census, 52% reported issues in receiving accommodation, including waits of up to 8 months to be offered even temporary shelter by local authorities, L' Auberge des Migrants/ Help Refugees said.
As the population rises, conditions around the camp are becoming more perilous, with increased and increasingly heavy-handed police presence, the continued hardening of public attitudes towards the refugees and threat from local authorities that the camp will be destroyed without any alternative accommodation provided. This, combined with a resettlement system in the UK that remains completely inert – even for those minors who have the right to come here under the so-called 'Dubs Amendment', the organisation stated.
Authorities 'using children as pawns – it's disgusting politics'
"With an impending eviction, there is currently no plan for safe accommodation for the children remaining in the camp. Those still stuck in the Calais 'Jungle' report increasing instances of self-harm, police violence, deteriorating mental health, insufficient food, inadequate accommodation and feeling hopeless," Annie Gavrilescu, the charity's legal and field manager in Calais, who conducts the census, said.
Referring to the Dubs Amendment, which was passed in the British Parliament in May this year, Gavrilescu condemned the fact that so far not a single child has been relocated to the UK under this provision.
"All these kids want is to reach their families and somebody in an office wearing a suit is preventing them from doing that by refusing to sign a bit of paper. All this time the Home Office and the French authorities are blaming each other and using children as pawns – it's disgusting politics," the humanitarian said.
A variety of these conditions were in evidence on Friday morning when a fourteen year-old boy, who had a legal case to be reunited with family in the UK, was killed on the motorway between the camp and the port. He became the youngest to die in Calais while trying to enter the UK.
Last month, a French court rejected a request for informal businesses in the Calais camp to be closed down. The Pas-de-Calais prefecture had applied had for the interim closure of 72 businesses, such as restaurants and cafes, which serve the nearly 9,000 thousands refugees at the site.
Restaurants and shops in the jungle have faced increased crackdowns, following a decision on 25 February to evict the southern part of the camp.