Calais Jungle

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Calais Jungle

Jungle de Calais
Migrant camp
Overview of Calais Jungle.jpg
Location in the city of Calais
Location in the city of Calais
Coordinates: 50°58′7″N 1°54′21″E / 50.96861°N 1.90583°E / 50.96861; 1.90583Coordinates: 50°58′7″N 1°54′21″E / 50.96861°N 1.90583°E / 50.96861; 1.90583
 (October 2016 (before closure))
 • Total8,143
 Census by Help Refugees[1]
Time zoneCET (UTC+01)

The Calais Jungle was a refugee and migrant encampment in the vicinity of Calais, France. It existed from January 2015 to October 2016. There had been other camps known as jungles in previous years, but this particular camp drew global media attention during the peak of the European migrant crisis in 2015, when its population grew rapidly.

By July 2015, this new jungle (known by the authorities as Camp de la Lande) had 3,000 inhabitants and it continued to grow. The French Government decided to evict it in 2016 and after several attempts, the camp was completely cleared in October 2016.

Location and name[edit]

The shanty town was located on the eastern edge of Calais, close to the Port of Calais and next to the N216 road. It was known by the French authorities as the Camp de la Lande and by inhabitants as the jungle. The use of the word 'jungle' is thought to derive from the Pashto word ‘dzjangal’ which means a forest or wood.[2] The jungle was on wasteland in a Seveso zone on polluted land (regulated by Directive 82/501/EC).[3] To solve this issue, government action was guided by the Treaty of Le Touquet of 4 February 2003, signed by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, committing to halt illegal immigration to the United Kingdom via Calais.[4]


The camp in October 2015.

Migrants based in Calais were attempting to enter the United Kingdom via the Port of Calais or the Channel Tunnel by stowing away on lorries, ferries, cars, or trains.[5]

A reception facility named Sangatte, opened and administered by the French Red Cross, was established near the Port of Calais in 1999 but rapidly became overcrowded.[6] The original jungle had been established in the woods around the Port after Sangatte was closed in November 2002 by Nicolas Sarkozy, then the French Minister of the Interior.[7]

In an April 2009 raid on a migrant camp, the French authorities had arrested 190 people and used bulldozers to destroy tents, but by July 2009 a new camp was established which the BBC estimated had 800 inhabitants.[7] In a dawn raid on September 2009, the French authorities closed down a camp occupied by 700–800 migrants and detained 276 people.[8][9] Conditions in these camps were poor, typically without proper sanitary or washing facilities, and accommodation consisting of tents and improvised shelters. Food was supplied by charity kitchens. The French authorities faced a dilemma of addressing humanitarian needs without attracting additional migrants.[7]


Conditions at the Jungle in October 2015

By September 2014, The Guardian estimated that there were 1,300 migrants in Calais, mostly from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria.[10] In 2015, fuelled by the European migrant crisis, the numbers began to grow. Migrants arrived from Afghanistan, Darfur, Iraq and other conflict zones.[11] By July 2015, The Telegraph reported that the "new jungle" (known by the authorities as Camp de la Lande) had 3,000 inhabitants.[12]

Médecins du Monde stated in 2015 that 62% of the migrants in Calais were young men with an average age of 33, with an increase in the number unaccompanied children (517 in 2014).[13] Many migrants later moved to smaller camps near Calais and Dunkirk.[14][15]

As of November 2015, there were an estimated 6,000 migrants living in this makeshift encampment.[16] At the end of February 2016, the BBC noted that there were differing figures for the population of the camp: "Calais officials say it houses 3,700, while Help Refugees puts it at 5,497".[17]


Badeldin Shogar, a Sudanese migrant or refugee, at the jungle in October 2015

In January 2016, French authorities opened a shelter in the northeastern part of the camp.[18] Authorities had earlier cleared tents and shacks from this area and erected 125 metal shipping containers in their place, converting them into housing units for up to 1,500 migrants.[18] Shipping containers, rather than more permanent structures, were chosen because the sand dunes are unfit for permanent foundations.[18] The container shelters were painted white and were furnished with bunk beds, windows, and heaters, but no running water or sanitary facilities (toilets and showers were made available at an existing nearby facility). At the time, Reuters described the Jungle as "squalid" and "unsanitary" and estimated its total population to be 4,000.[18]

Many migrants subsequently moved into the container housing, but some resisted the French government's ultimatum to leave the Jungle and go to the container area, citing the area's spartan setup, lack of communal areas, and fears that once in the new housing area, they would be blocked from going to Britain.[19][20]

Eviction attempts[edit]

A young migrant or refugee dribbling a ball at the camp during October 2015

On 25 February 2016, the French government received approval from a court in Lille to evict 1,000 migrants from the camp; the group Help Refugees estimated that 3,455 refugees were living in the eviction area.[21] During the evictions the southern side of the camp was demolished. There was some resistance; riot police used tear gas and stones were thrown. At least 12 huts were set on fire.[17] A petition by charities to stop a planned demolition of the southern half of the Jungle was rejected by a French court.[22]

In early March 2016, workers under heavy police guard began to demolish shacks in the encampment; police clashed with migrants and British No Border activists, who set fire to structures in response. Protests continued into the evening, when migrants blocked the nearby road. Three No Border activists and one migrant were arrested.[23]

As of March 2016, local authorities had estimated the population of the camp at 3,700 (of whom about 800 to 1,000 would be affected by the eviction). Aid groups had put the number higher, stating that according to a census they had conducted, there were "at least 3,450 people in the southern part alone, including 300 unaccompanied children."[22] French Minister of the Economy Emmanuel Macron warned that should the UK vote to leave the EU in its June 2016 referendum, the juxtaposed controls arrangements that allow British immigration officials to operate in Calais might be threatened, and that as a consequence the Calais jungle might transfer to Britain.[24][25]

The Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP) released a report in April 2016 called 'The Long Wait: Filling the data gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in the Calais camp.' It stated that 75.9% of the 870 refugees surveyed at the jungle said that they had experienced police violence, a category which included physical violence, verbal abuse, tear gas and sexual violence. A similar figure (76.7%) reported health issues resulting from living in the jungle.[26]

A large fight between 200 and 300 migrants from Afghanistan and Sudan broke out at the Jungle in late May 2016, resulting in 40 injuries (33 migrants, 5 aid workers, and 2 police officers), of which 3 were serious (including a stabbing).[27] Two hundred police officers, seventy firefighters, and eleven ambulances responded to the scene; French authorities opened an investigation.[27] At the time, Deutsche Welle estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 people lived in the camp.[27]

According to a July 2016 census by Help Refugees, the camp was populated by 7,307 migrants - the highest number to date. Of those, 761 were minors according to the census, with the population of the camp growing by 50 people a day on average.[28] It was estimated that the population reached 10,000 before the camp's demolition.[29]

Some migrants were attempting to return to the United Kingdom having once lived there.[15] Others were attempting to enter the British labour market to work illegally rather than claim asylum in France.[7][10] Many have paid smugglers to get them to Calais: one migrant from Egypt, a politics graduate, told The Guardian that he "paid $3,000 (£2,000) to leave Egypt, risked my life on a boat to Italy spending days at sea" and that in one month he had tried 20 times to reach England; another, an Eritrean woman with a one-year-old child, had paid €2,500 (£1,825) – and her husband the same – to sail to Italy, but her husband had drowned during the journey.[30] Migrants risk their lives when they try to climb aboard or travel on lorries, occasionally falling off and breaking bones; some fatalities en route are also recorded.[30][31] In September 2016, workers began building a barrier, dubbed "The Great Wall Of Calais", to block refugees from accessing a highway where they could stow away on vehicles bound for Britain.[32]


A makeshift library in the camp, January 2016
The entrance to St Michaels Church in 2016

According to a doctor working in the jungle for 10 days with Médecins Sans Frontières, the conditions of the shanty town were worse than anything she had seen in slums in Africa. Access to water taps and showers was inadequate.[33] Médecins du Monde stated in July 2015 that there was "insufficient drinking water (30 taps), practically no toilets (20 for 3,000 people), insufficient food, inadequate health care."[12]

A number of NGOs worked to provide refugee relief, including the French associations L'Aubergue des Migrants, Salam, Secours Catholique, and Utopia 56. A number of foreign NGOs were also present, including Help Refugees (working in partnership with L'Auberge des Migrants), Refugee Community Kitchen, Calais Kitchens, Belgium Kitchen, Care4Calais, Refugee Info Bus.[34] Educational services were provided by Jungle Books, the Ecole Laique du chemins des dunes and by Edlumino.[34][35]

St. Michael's Church, (also known as The Eritrean Church, or Ethiopian Church) was one of the most recognisable religious buildings in the camp, and one of the earliest community constructed structures, built in April 2015.[36] The church was featured on the BBC Television's Songs of Praise in August 2015.[37][38] This was a controversial action since the BBC was accused of wasting its licence payers' fees and of taking a political stance. Senior Church of England figures such as the Bishop of Leeds, the Dean of Durham and the Archbishop of Canterbury said they fully supported the program.[39] In 2016, a different church and a mosque were demolished by the authorities.[40]


Banksy made a mural called The Son of a Migrant from Syria in the camp in 2015. It featured Steve Jobs as a migrant.[41]

Jaz O'Hara visited the jungle with her boyfriend in 2015 and decided to collect donations after writing a Facebook post which was shared 60,000 times.[42] They set up a group called CalAid and collected clothing donations in London.[43] They received hundreds of tents from Reading and Leeds festivals and took the donations to Calais in a fleet of 40 vans.[42]

Libby Freeman, visited Calais in July 2015 with a vanload of donations. On her return she set up Calais Action, a grassroots direct giving charity.[44]

Popstar Lily Allen visited the camp in 2016 at the instigation of a friend who runs a migrant charity. She apologised to a migrant on behalf of the UK.[45]

Letters Live organised a reading at the jungle in 2016 which featured playwright Tom Stoppard and actors Jude Law, Tom Odell and Toby Jones.[46]


On Monday, 24 October 2016, the French authorities began the final major eviction at dawn. It was planned that 6,400 migrants would be moved from the jungle to 280 temporary reception centres around France, in 170 buses.[47]

On Wednesday, 26 October, the prefect of Pas-de-Calais, Fabienne Buccio, announced that the camp had been cleared, but news reporters stated there were still adults in the camp and unaccompanied children were waiting to be processed.[1] Whilst some migrants relocated to a camp in Grande-Synthe, many fled to informal settlements in rural areas across northern France.[48]

On Thursday, 27 October, the UK and French governments were condemned by aid workers from groups such as Help Refugees and Save the Children for not respecting the human rights of children. The 200 unaccompanied children, aged 14 to 17, had been lured out of the camp by promises of transport to an asylum centre, but ended up being told by police to return to a derelict and unheated former school building in the camp, after Baroness Sheehan had intervened. Liberal Democrat peer Sheehan had traveled to the camp to witness the eviction.[49]

On Wednesday November 2, the final stages of the eviction took place. An estimated 1,500 people including children had been sleeping for a week in shipping containers. Buses took the migrants to asylum centres at undisclosed locations across the country.[50] Aid groups later reported that many of former jungle residents had moved to the streets of Paris.[51]


French protesters in Calais hold banners saying "Reimmigrate" and "Diversity is a code word for white genocide", 8 November 2015

Human Rights Watch published a report in July 2017 called Like Living in Hell documenting what it described as continuing human rights abuses by the police against children and adult migrants in the region. It stated that nine months after the eviction of the jungle, around 500 migrants were still living in various locations around Calais. Having interviewed over 60 migrants and more than 20 aid workers, the report noted that police, particularly CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, French riot police), were routinely spraying migrants, their possessions and their food and water with pepper spray.[52]

In popular culture[edit]

  • 2016: Jérôme Sessini made a photo report for Magnum Photos about the jungle.[53]
  • 2017: Nicolas Klotz and Élisabeth Perceval launched a documentary film on the Calais Jungle: "The Wild Frontier" (original title: L'héroïque lande, la frontière brûle, France, 225 min.).[54]
  • 2017: The Jungle is the subject of a play of the same name by Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy. It premiered at the Young Vic in London and has since been performed in New York and San Francisco.[55]
  • 2019: The Jungle was the subject of a major temporary exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum titled Lande: the Calais "Jungle" and Beyond.[56][57]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Calais 'Jungle' cleared of migrants, French prefect says". BBC News. 26 October 2016. Archived from the original on 27 June 2019.
  2. ^ Lande: the Calais 'Jungle' and Beyond. Bristol University Press. 22 May 2019. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-5292-0618-0. Archived from the original on 27 April 2019. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  3. ^ "La " jungle " de Calais est majoritairement située en zone Seveso" [The Calais "jungle" is mostly situated in the Seveso zone]. Le 19 October 2015. Archived from the original on 13 July 2018 – via Le Monde.
  4. ^ "What is Britain doing to help the Calais migrant crisis? - France 24". 21 October 2015. Archived from the original on 21 October 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Learning from the Jungle". The Economist. 8 August 2015. Archived from the original on 6 August 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  6. ^ Bouchard, Melodie (5 November 2014). "Remembering Sangatte, France's Notorious Refugee Camp". Vice. Archived from the original on 21 August 2019. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Migrant squalor in Calais 'jungle'. Archived 10 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine Emma-Jane Kirby, BBC News, 2 July 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  8. ^ Dawn raid on Calais "Jungle". Archived 23 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine The Connexion, 22 September 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  9. ^ French police round up 200 migrants in Calais swoop. Archived 11 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Agence France-Presse, 21 April 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Calais mayor threatens to block port if UK fails to help deal with migrants". Guardian. Agence France-Presse in Paris. 3 September 2014. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  11. ^ Keane, Fergal (9 October 2014). "Calais 'Jungle': Migrants hit dead end in journey to UK". BBC. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  12. ^ a b Mulholland, Rory (5 July 2015). "Calais crisis: Bicycle repair shops, mosques and an Orthodox church - the town where migrants wait to cross to Britain". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 25 January 2019. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  13. ^ La Voix du Nord (15 October 2015). "Médecins du Monde alerte sur la situation des migrants". Nordéclair (in French). Archived from the original on 11 June 2019. Retrieved 21 August 2019. Si à Calais se trouvent de nombreux femmes et enfants, la population des centres d’accueil est en majorité jeune et masculine (62% d’hommes, 33 ans de moyenne d’âge). MDM note une augmentation des mineurs étrangers isolés (517 accueillis en 2014, un chiffre multiplié par 8 depuis 2011), soumis par l’Etat à « des tests de maturation osseuse absolument pas fiables », dénonce Mme Sivignon, pour déterminer leur âge et savoir s’ils peuvent être pris en charge par l’aide sociale à l’enfance.
  14. ^ Cooper, Yvette (7 January 2016). "The most shocking thing about Calais is that it's not even too big to solve". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
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  16. ^ "France has less and less influence in the EU, and fears to use what it still has". The Economist. 7 November 2015. Archived from the original on 7 November 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  17. ^ a b "EU migrant crisis: Clashes as France clears Calais 'Jungle'". BBC News. 29 February 2016. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  18. ^ a b c d Blamont, Matthias (11 January 2016). "Migrant shelter made of shipping containers opens in France's Calais". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2 August 2019. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  19. ^ Sarah Elzas, Calais Jungle to be demolished, yet migrants resist government rehousing Archived 24 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Radio France Internationale (22 February 2016).
  20. ^ Patrick Kingsley, Calais 'Jungle' residents defy bulldozers as police issue ultimatum to leave Archived 21 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian (12 January 2016).
  21. ^ "Calais 'Jungle' eviction gets go-ahead". BBC News Online. 25 February 2016. Archived from the original on 25 February 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  22. ^ a b Clashes as authorities dismantle Calais 'Jungle' Archived 2 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine, France24 (3 March 2016).
  23. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique; Walker, Peter; Quinn, Ben. "Calais 'Jungle' camp: clashes as authorities demolish homes". Guardian. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  24. ^ "Brexit Could Bring Calais 'Jungle' To Britain". Sky News. 3 March 2016. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  25. ^ Wintour, Patrick; Asthana, Anushka (3 March 2016). "French minister: Brexit would threaten Calais border arrangement". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  26. ^ Yeung, Peter (4 April 2016). "Calais 'Jungle': 75% of refugees have 'experienced police violence'". Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  27. ^ a b c Dozens injured at fight at Calais 'Jungle' migrant camp Archived 27 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Deutsche Welle (27 May 2016).
  28. ^ Buchanan, Elsa (21 July 2016). "Migrant crisis: A record 7,300 people now live in Calais' Jungle migrant camp". Archived from the original on 30 September 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  29. ^ Davies, Thom; Isakjee, Arshad; Dhesi, Surindar (1 January 2017). "Violent Inaction: The Necropolitical Experience of Refugees in Europe" (PDF). Antipode. 49 (5): 1263–1284. doi:10.1111/anti.12325. ISSN 1467-8330.
  30. ^ a b 'At night it's like a horror movie' – inside Calais's official shantytown. Archived 29 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, 6 April 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  31. ^ Taylor, Matthew; Grandjean, Guy (23 December 2014). "At least 15 migrants died in 'shameful' Calais conditions in 2014". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 July 2015. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  32. ^ "Great Wall Of Calais: Work begins on barrier to stop migrants". Archived from the original on 13 July 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  33. ^ "Calais, la jungle, une médecin mayennaise témoigne" [Calais, the jungle, a Mayennais doctor bears witness]. La Mayenne, on adore !. 19 October 2015. Archived from the original on 20 October 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015. Dans mes séjours passés en Afrique, je n’ai jamais vu un bidonville d’une telle insalubrité. Des toilettes, des points d’eau inutilisables vu leur état et leur nombre tellement insuffisant.
  34. ^ a b "Who's Who". Calaidipedia. Archived from the original on 11 October 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  35. ^ Scott, Natalie (27 April 2016). "Teaching in France's refugee camps". SecEd. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  36. ^ Fraser, Giles (7 August 2015). "The migrants' church in Calais is a place of raw prayer and defiant hope". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 April 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  37. ^ Ahmed, Aaqil (14 August 2015). "Why Songs of Praise is visiting the migrant camp in Calais". BBC. Archived from the original on 12 November 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  38. ^ "Inside the Calais migrants' church – in pictures". The Guardian. 4 August 2015. Archived from the original on 11 October 2018. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  39. ^ Jessica Elgot (8 August 2015). "Church of England defends Songs of Praise filmed in Calais migrant camp". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 September 2018. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  40. ^ Hayden, Sally (1 February 2016). "Church and Mosque Bulldozed in Calais Jungle Refugee Camp". Archived from the original on 21 August 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  41. ^ "Banksy work in Calais 'Jungle' shows Steve Jobs as migrant". BBC News. 11 December 2015. Archived from the original on 26 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  42. ^ a b "Couple overwhelmed by Calais donations". BBC News. 6 September 2015. Archived from the original on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  43. ^ Alwakeel, Ramzy (6 September 2015). "CalAid: Hundreds descend on Dalston social centre to donate goods for Calais refugees". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 22 May 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  44. ^ Fishwick, Carmen (25 May 2019). "A homemade humanitarian mission: what it's like to take donations to Calais". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  45. ^ "Lily Allen's been trolled after visiting a migrant camp in Calais". BBC. Archived from the original on 12 June 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  46. ^ "British celebrities highlight refugee plight in Calais 'Jungle'". The New Arab. 22 February 2016. Archived from the original on 7 May 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  47. ^ Baumard, Maryline (21 October 2016). "" Jungle " de Calais : le démantèlement débutera lundi à l'aube" [Calais "Jungle": the dismantling will begin Monday at dawn]. Le (in French). Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2016. A partir de 8 heures, les premiers autocars commenceront à évacuer 6 400 exilés vers 280 lieux répartis dans toute la France
  48. ^ Gentleman, Amelia (5 November 2016). "Refugees take to hiding in northern France after Calais camp demolished". Guardian. Archived from the original on 29 September 2018 – via
  49. ^ Gentleman, Amelia; O'Carroll, Lisa; Travis, Alan (27 October 2016). "Calais minors lured from camp then abandoned by authorities". Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  50. ^ Gentleman, Amelia (2 November 2016). "Last of Calais refugee children evacuated as camp clearance ends". Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  51. ^ Nossiter, Adam (3 November 2016). "Paris Is the New Calais, With Scores of Migrants Arriving Daily". New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  52. ^ [1] Archived 9 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine "Like Living in Hell", Human Rights Watch, 26 July 2017
  53. ^ Sessini, Jérôme (26 May 2016). "The Calais Jungle". Magnum. Archived from the original on 7 May 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  54. ^ Prozeniuk, Tyler. "Review: 'The Wild Frontier'". Point of View Magazine. Archived from the original on 28 May 2019. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  55. ^ Cavendish, Dominic (17 December 2017). "The Jungle, Young Vic: a warts and all account of the migrant crisis as powerful as A Christmas Carol - review". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  56. ^ Pitt Rivers Museum. "Exhibition - Lande: the Calais 'Jungle' and Beyond". Archived from the original on 5 May 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  57. ^ University of Oxford. "Lande: the Calais 'Jungle' and Beyond (TORCH)". Archived from the original on 5 May 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2019.

External links[edit]