Calais migrants divided by chances of crossing Channel

The recent spike of boat crossings – largely by Iranians – has left an already frustrated African migrant community in Calais bitter and angry.

They are fully aware of the attention on the Iranians, and even seem irked at the desire of journalists to seek them out to tell the story about how they are managing to get across the Channel.



Suspected migrants arrive in dinghy on Kent beach








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Suspected migrants met by officials

While Iranians plan to stay in Calais for the shortest possible time, the Africans we spoke to seem resigned to having to stay for months before their opportunity to get out arises.

One Sudanese man we spoke to told us he had been here for a year, sleeping rough at the side of the road.

Many migrants - mostly of African origin - try to get to the UK by boarding trucks
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Many migrants – mostly of African origin – try to get to the UK by boarding trucks

He was well aware of the large numbers of Iranians taking boats, and simply said of his time in Calais: “It’s difficult. It’s f****** s***.”

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His friend from Ethiopia has spent 10 months in Calais.

He has no aspirations of getting a boat, knowing it costs money he does not have. He plans to keep trying the old-fashioned method of smuggling himself into the back of a passing lorry or car.

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Migrants remain in Calais in huge numbers despite the destruction of the so-called Calais jungle two years ago
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Migrants remain in Calais in huge numbers despite the destruction of the so-called Calais jungle two years ago

The so-called Calais jungle – a camp that became well known as the house of migrants in the ferry port – has been demolished by police.

Even in the sprawling jungle, the camp was divided into different communities from different countries and with clear boundaries.

Since the bulldozing of the jungle in 2016, migrants have set up smaller camps dotted here and there, but they are here in far fewer numbers.

But once again, they have started to pitch their tents in wasteland or gather along country lines.

One Iranian man told me a few weeks ago that smugglers walked openly into his camp touting for business – and the Iranians we spoke to say it is pretty easy to make contact with smugglers if you want to buy a dinghy.

It may not sound like much, but having a phone, the money and the know-how to get out is a luxury most of the African migrants do not seem to have.

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