CALAIS (France), Oct 24 — Hundreds of migrants bade farewell to the notorious “Jungle” camp in Calais today, leaving behind the sprawling settlement and their dreams of reaching Britain with a mixture of relief and despair.
“We don’t know yet where we are going, but it will obviously be better than the Jungle, which was made for animals not humans,” said Wahid, a 23-year-old from Afghanistan. “We will be in a home.”
Wahid was up before dawn to be among the first to get on one of the buses taking the camp’s estimated 6,000-8,000 occupants to 451 centres across France.
A 25-year-old Sudanese man, Abbas Hussein Ali, was also upbeat about leaving the insalubrious camp that has served as a launchpad for attempts to reach Britain.
“I feel very happy, I’ve had enough of the Jungle,” he said.
But freshly scrawled graffiti on the walls of makeshift shelters and shops in the camp told another story.
“I lost my hope,” read one tag. “Is this justice? No,” read another.
‘My dream is ruined’
Hammoudi, a 22-year-old from the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo, told AFP yesterday: “My dream is ruined.”
Hammoudi, whose cousin was killed in a bombing in July, added: “My hope was to be able to reach the UK, where I believe we as refugees would be better treated. But all of that is over.”
Some people, including Hammoudi, were still bent on starting a new life across the Channel.
Overnight, he and a group of Syrian friends fled the Jungle, aiming to set up camp nearby — and to keep trying to cross into Britain.
Mahmoud al-Saleh, a 22-year-old from near Aleppo, said he was undecided about whether to register for transfer to a French accommodation centre.
Sipping tea from a plastic cup, he spoke nervously, saying he feared trouble if he did not submit to the evacuation order.
Saleh said he thought his chances of finding work were far better in Britain than in France.
“I have to send money to my family in Syria. They have nothing... I just feel — either I get to Britain someday, or I am better off in Syria,” he said.
Tasfu, a 48-year-old Eritrean carpenter, took a longer view.
“My ambition is still to go to England, but I don’t want to go to jail or risk my life in the process,” he said, standing outside a shack in one of the Jungle’s muddy alleys.
“Once I have gone through the (asylum) process in France, I will go to England.”
‘My country is not safe’
Farhan, a 12-year-old Ethiopian boy who survived a harrowing sea voyage from Libya to Italy before travelling overland to Calais, said he wished he could go home.
“But my country is not safe,” the boy said. “My heart has been broken since I left my family last year. I have not even been able to speak to them.”
Farhan was among scores of minors from the majority Oromo community in Ethiopia that has waged nearly a year of protests against a government largely made up of minority Tigrayans.
“Like everyone else, he travelled here alone,” said Solan, a 24-year-old Ethiopian volunteer working with the minors.
Britain has taken in nearly 200 child refugees out of an estimated 1,300 from the Jungle in the past week and is expected to take dozens more.
Ashram, a 17-year-old Afghan, said he would try to renew his attempts to stow away on a truck heading across the Channel to Britain if his application failed.
“I’m used to it now,” he said. — AFP