Plight of the asylum seekers marooned in France

04Apr09

asylum-seekers2originally published: 28th March 2009

Nick Mohammed scrambles through a thicket of razor sharp thorn bushes and goes around a growing mound of human waste to reach his home, a cramped, squalid hut cobbled together from wooden crates, plastic tarpaulin and waterlogged, rotting duvets.

Under a steady drizzle of icy rain he pauses, breathes air into his hands in a futile attempt to feel warm, before breaking into an enormous and friendly smile. “Welcome to my home,” he laughs. “I admit it’s not a palace. Ten of us live in this tent. We only have a few blankets each so we have to make sure there are many of us to keep warm.”

Mr Mohammed and his friends are among the thousands of Afghan asylum-seekers who leave their war-torn homeland every year seeking a better life in the West.

The 23-year-old’s current residence is not some Third World refugee camp in Pakistan, but a sprawling and fetid tent city, spread across a field of thorny scrubland on the outskirts of the French port of Calais.

Known to locals and its inhabitants as “The Jungle”, it is a place of poverty and grinding desperation. It is also a damning indictment of France’s treatment of its clandestins, the illegal immigrants who are forced to sleep rough.

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