France: More Than 4,000 Still Huddled in Calais "Jungle"

Samuel Hanryon/MSF

More than 4,000 refugees continue to live in the pop-up slum that has taken shape outside Calais, France, despite the government's desire to reduce the numbers. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is maintaining its medical presence in the area and following the evolution of the situation. 

Meanwhile, the authorities want the refugees to move in to temporary structures they’ve provided. They assert that individuals wishing to remain in Calais should move into the "Temporary Reception Center" (know as "the white container camp"), while families and children can stay in the Jules Ferry Center. Others are able to move to Reception Centers elsewhere in France, where they can then apply for asylum.

The destruction of the southern part of the slum began on February 29 and was almost completed on March 16. MSF constructed a small medical clinic in the southern part of the camp in order to provide medical care to anyone who was wounded during the violence that occurred during the evacuation. Now, the French authorities want to begin destruction on the northern part of the camp, which would leave 75 percent of the refugee population without anywhere to go. 

The demolitions have already made the living conditions in the northern part of the camp more crowded, resulting in heightened tensions and an increased lack of privacy for the people living there. MSF has therefore had to build a new medical clinic in the camp, in two wooden shelters. Here refugees can access nursing care, psychological care, and receive medical certificates if they’ve been subjected to violence, at times by local police forces. MSF will continue to testify for the cases of violence committed against the refugees and will expand its mental health activities in the camp, particularly for isolated minors. 

More generally, the situation for the 4,000 refugees remaining at the camp is volatile and has been criticized by the organizations working there. There are only 1,900 available places for people in the Temporary Reception Center at Calais, which has already reached capacity.

Following the evacuations many refugees have left Calais to go to a number of much smaller refugee camps across Northern France. Some are made up of a few dozen refugees whilst others are home to hundreds of people. MSF is following the movements of refugees to these smaller sites and will continue to provide medical help to those who need it.

On March 1, MSF handed over the running of our main clinic to the local French health service. MSF maintains its presence in the Jungle camp through one small clinic where the team will continue to provide psychotherapy and physiotherapy services. MSF’s logistical activities were still substantial as of a few weeks ago. Teams have installed toilets, running water stations and have been overseeing rubbish collection as well as the construction of more than 200 shelters. However, MSF will now begin to phase out these responsibilities and hand them over to other organizations at the site.

Read More About MSF's Response to Refugees and IDPs

People are gathering as the police is demantling shelters in Calais' Jungle
Samuel Hanryon/MSF