Anglo-French claims to have smashed Calais Jungle traffickers prove hollow
“Asylum seekers” from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran are forced to find alternative accomodation after their Jungle in Calais was raided and torn apart by police
Some migrants appear to have moved away from Calais , but many are sleeping rough
It was touted as a victory over the modern slave trade, a raid vital to restoring order to a lawless camp where people-smuggling gangs exploited human misery.
But days after the destruction of the “Jungle” â€” the makeshift collection of hovels behind the beach that were home to hundreds of migrants seeking to cross the Channel â€” the claims of British and French ministers to have smashed the criminal networks are proving hollow.
Not a single trafficker was among the 141 adults and 135 children arrested as the camp was evacuated on Tuesday.
By the end of the week, the gangs had resumed their business of making money out of the Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Eritreans and other nationalities desperate to reach Britain.
On the waterside in Calais, for example, a group of Afghan Pashtuns squatted in a circle. One man stood out with his bright complexion, shampooed hair and clean black jacket â€” in stark contrast to the weary, dirty appearance of the others.
“I know him,” said a charity worker. “He’s a trafficker â€” in fact he’s the right-hand man of one of the bosses.” The group formed a circle and began a discussion in hushed voices. The charity worker said that they were almost certainly talking about meeting points, logistics and the fee charged by the gangs for opening the doors of lorry trailers heading for Britain and closing them again behind the migrants. The current rate is about â‚¬1,000 (Â£900) for four attempts.
There were plenty of potential customers despite the evacuation of the Jungle, which was the biggest of a dozen or so camps along the northern French coast.
Although some migrants appear to have moved away from Calais â€” temporarily, according to the charity worker â€” many are sleeping rough.
Majid, 20, a student from Kunhar province in Afghanistan, had been in the Jungle for three months. He escaped arrest because he was tipped off about the raid by police, who had no wish to fill their cells with all 800 or so of the Afghans in the Jungle.
“They said ‘Go, go, go’.” So he went â€” along with most of the other residents and all the people-smugglers the French Government had, in theory, been trying to catch. Conditions in the camp had been squalid, he said. “I’ve had two showers in all the time I’ve been in Calais.”
Now his plight was worse. “Since Tuesday I’ve been sleeping under a bridge,” he said, pointing at a handful of sleeping bags on the concrete banks of the canal that runs through Calais. “It’s cold at night. What else can I do?”
The French Government wants the migrants to make asylum claims in France or return to their own countries.
Dawod, 29, from Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, dismissed both options. “I don’t want to stay in France because there is nothing for us â€” no home, no food,” he said. “And Afghanistan? It’s too dangerous. The Taleban will cut my throat.
“Every night I try to get to Britain because Britain is good. The police always catch me but one day I will succeed â€” maybe in a month, maybe two, maybe three, maybe more. But I will go.”
That means placing himself in the hands of the traffickers who charged his family $15,000 (Â£9,400) to bring him by lorry, car, boat and train through Iran, Turkey, Greece and Italy, to France.
It is the choice of almost all the migrants in Calais. Among the 276 arrested in the Jungle, for example, only 43 have said that they will seek refugee status in France. The rest are determined to return to the northern French coast to continue trying to get into lorries bound for Britain.
A total of 48 teenagers, for example, were placed in a hostel in Carvin, northern France, after their arrest. By the end of lunch that day, about 20 had fled. The adults were put in detention centres in southern France, where they can be held for up to 32 days. Judges in Toulouse, Marseilles and NÃ®mes ordered the release of 58 after ruling that the arrests had been illegal.
Dindar, 24, from Mosul in northern Iraq, says that he would not have minded being detained after three months in a camp on the other side of the road from the Jungle. “It’s too hard here for me â€” too hard.”
Last month he turned himself in to the regional police headquarters in Lille. But he was asked to leave after being given a letter that said he had no right to remain in France, and was told that he had five days to leave the country. “I came back to Calais,” he said. “Where else could I go?”