[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Calais plans for migrant facilities

By Jack Izzard
BBC News, Calais

Five years after the Sangatte refugee centre was closed, the mayor of Calais has offered to provide new facilities for the hundreds of people living rough near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel.

Many of those at the camp have fled war zones

The industrial outskirts of Calais are a grimy, noisy and forbidding place.

But they remain the home to around 500 migrants sleeping rough in makeshift tents.

Many have fled conflicts in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur.

They have no passports and no money.

Most rely on charity for food and clothes. French volunteers organise daily soup kitchens, where bowls of hearty stew are handed out to anyone who is hungry.

Hundreds of people wait patiently in line for the food. Many have terrible tales to tell.

I cannot go home, it is too bad, too painful
Abdul Aziz

Like Javed, who is only 14, but hitch-hiked here from his home in the Afghan capital, Kabul, after the Taleban killed both his parents.

Or Abdul Aziz, who says he was tortured for five years in a jail in Yemen. Like most migrants here, he is desperate to reach Britain.

He says: "I just think life will be better there. I can be free. Free to live and work. I cannot go home, it is too bad, too painful.

"I don't know how I will get to Britain, but I will try everything."

This is a familiar scene among the migrants. For them Calais is just a staging post on the way to Britain.

'Better life'

Every night dozens try to stow away in cars, trains and trucks - anything they think might cross through the Channel Tunnel into England.

Many don't make it. Some of those I meet have broken limbs by falling off moving vehicles. Others are arrested and deported.

But still they keep coming - dreaming of a better life and asylum in the UK.

Charities in Calais are struggling to cope.

Now the city's mayor has offered to build some basic facilities for the migrants on a derelict football pitch.

There will be a soup kitchen and showers, but no accommodation.

Refugees come to Calais to get to Britain, not for a free bowl of soup
Jacky Verhaegen
Secours Catholique

The idea is popular with charities, but many people in Calais and across the channel in Kent are suspicious.

They worry that better facilities may attract more people and make the problem worse.

Jacky Verhaegen, form the charity Secours Catholique, laughed this off.

"The plan is not for Sangatte 2.

"We'll just be offering what we do now - food and a hot shower.

"Refugees come to Calais to get to Britain, not for a free bowl of soup."

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific