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The Calais Jungle was a refugee and migrant encampment in the vicinity of Calais, France. It existed from January 2015 to October 2016. There had been other camps known as jungles in previous years, but this particular camp drew global media attention during the peak of the European migrant crisis in 2015, when its population grew rapidly.

Calais Jungle

Jungle de Calais
Migrant camp
Overview of Calais Jungle.jpg
Location in the city of Calais
Location in the city of Calais
Coordinates: 50°58′7″N 1°54′21″E / 50.96861°N 1.90583°E / 50.96861; 1.90583Coordinates: 50°58′7″N 1°54′21″E / 50.96861°N 1.90583°E / 50.96861; 1.90583
 (October 2016 (before closure))
 • Total8,143
 Census by Help Refugees[1]
Time zoneCET (UTC+01)

By July 2015, this new jungle (known by the authorities as Camp de la Lande) had 3,000 inhabitants and it continued to grow. The French Government decided to evict it in 2016 and after several attempts, the camp was completely cleared in October 2016.


Location and conditionsEdit

The shanty town was located on the eastern edge of Calais, close to the Port of Calais and next to the N216 road. It was known by the French authorities as the Camp de la Lande. The use of the word 'jungle' is thought to derive from the Pashto word ‘dzjangal’ which means a forest or wood.[2]

The jungle was located on wasteland in a Seveso zone on polluted land (regulated by Directive 82/501/EC).[3] To solve this issue, government action was guided by the Treaty of Le Touquet of 4 February 2003, signed by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, committing to halt illegal immigration to the United Kingdom via Calais.[4]


The camp in October 2015.

Migrants based in Calais were attempting to enter the United Kingdom via the Port of Calais or the Channel Tunnel by stowing away on lorries, ferries, cars, or trains.[5]

A reception facility named Sangatte, opened and administered by the French Red Cross,[6] was established near the Port of Calais in 1999 but rapidly became overcrowded.[7] The original jungle was established in the woods around the Port after Sangatte was closed in November 2002[7] by Nicolas Sarkozy, then the French Minister of the Interior.[8][6][9]

In an April 2009 raid on a migrant camp, the French authorities had arrested 190 people and used bulldozers to destroy tents, but by July 2009 a new camp was established which the BBC estimated had 800 inhabitants.[8] In a dawn raid in September 2009, the French authorities closed down a camp occupied by 700–800 migrants and detained 276 people.[10][11] Conditions in these camps were poor, typically without proper sanitary or washing facilities, and accommodation consisting of tents and improvised shelters. Food was supplied by charity kitchens. The French authorities have faced a dilemma of addressing humanitarian needs without attracting additional migrants.[8]

The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, threatened in September 2014 to block the port because, although it was an illegal action and would bring down upon her lawsuits and opprobrium, she thought it would send a "strong message" to the UK authorities.[7]

Camp de la LandeEdit

By September 2014, The Guardian estimated that there were 1,300 migrants in Calais, mostly from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria,[7] and in 2015, fuelled by the European migrant crisis, the numbers began to grow. By July 2015, The Telegraph reported that the "new jungle" (known by the authorities as Camp de la Lande) had 3,000 inhabitants.[12]

As of November 2015, there were an estimated 6,000 migrants living in this makeshift encampment.[13] At the end of February 2016, the BBC noted: "[the] Total camp population is disputed - Calais officials say it houses 3,700, while Help Refugees puts it at 5,497".[14]

Conditions at the Jungle in October 2015

In January 2016, French authorities opened a shelter in the northeastern part of the camp.[15] Authorities had earlier cleared tents and shacks from this area and erected 125 metal shipping containers in their place, converting the containers into shelters for up to 1,500 migrants.[15] Shipping containers, rather than more permanent structures, were chosen because the sand dunes are unfit for permanent foundations.[15] The container shelters were painted white and were furnished with bunk beds, windows, and heaters, but no running water or sanitary facilities (toilets and showers were made available at an existing nearby facility). At the time, Reuters described the Jungle as "squalid" and "unsanitary" and estimated its total population to be 4,000.[15]

Many migrants subsequently moved into the container housing, but some resisted the French government's ultimatum to leave the Jungle and go to the container area, citing the area's spartan setup, lack of communal areas, and fears that once in the new housing area, they would be blocked from going to Britain.[16][17]

On 25 February 2016, the French government received approval from a court in Lille to evict 1,000 migrants from the camp; the group Help Refugees estimated that 3,455 refugees were living in the eviction area.[18] During the evictions the southern side of the camp was demolished. There was some resistance; riot police used tear gas and stones were thrown. At least 12 huts were set on fire.[19] A petition by charities to stop a planned demolition of the southern half of the Jungle was rejected by a French court.[20] In early March 2016, workers under heavy police guard began to demolish shacks in the encampment; police clashed with migrants and British No Border activists, who set fire to structures in response. Protests continued into the evening, when migrants blocked the nearby road. Three No Border activists and one migrant were arrested.[21]

As of March 2016, local authorities had estimated the population of the camp at 3,700 (of whom about 800 to 1,000 would be affected by the eviction). Aid groups had put the number higher, stating that according to a census they had conducted, there were "at least 3,450 people in the southern part alone, including 300 unaccompanied children."[20] French Minister of the Economy Emmanuel Macron warned that should the UK vote to leave the EU in its June 2016 referendum, the juxtaposed controls arrangements that allow British immigration officials to operate in Calais might be threatened, and that as a consequence the Calais jungle might transfer to Britain.[22][23]

The Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP) released a report in April 2016 called 'The Long Wait: Filling the data gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in the Calais camp.' It stated that 75.9% of the 870 refugees surveyed at the jungle said that they had experienced police violence. A similar figure (76.7%) reported health issues resulting from living in the jungle.[24]

A "massive brawl" with unclear causes broke out at the Jungle in late May 2016, resulting in 40 injuries (33 migrants, 5 aid workers, and 2 police officers), of which 3 were serious (including a stabbing).[25] Two hundred police officers, seventy firefighters, and eleven ambulances responded to the scene; French authorities opened an investigation.[25] At the time, Deutsche Welle estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 people lived in the camp.[25] As of October 2016, Help Refugees put the number at 8,143.[1] and a subsequent academic article estimated that the population reached 10,000 before the camp's demolition.[26]

In September 2016, workers began building a barrier, dubbed "The Great Wall Of Calais", to block refugees from accessing a highway where they could stow away on vehicles bound for Britain.[27]

Migrant populationEdit

Badeldin Shogar a Sudanese migrant or refugee at the jungle in October 2015
A young migrant or refugee dribbling a ball at the camp during October 2015

According to a July 2016 census by Help Refugees, the camp was populated by 7,307 migrants - the highest number to date. Of those, 761 were minors according to the census. The population of the camp grew by 50 people a day on average.[28] It has been stated that the population had surged to nearly 10,000 after the Brexit vote on 23 June 2016.[29]

Sixty two percent of the migrants in Calais are young men with an average age of 33 and of non-European origin.[30] The mix of nationalities has changed over time, with Kurdish Iraqis being the largest group initially,[31][32] but by 2014 a growing number of people were also from the Horn of Africa and Sudan.[33] Many of the Kurdish Iraqis later moved to similar camps near Calais and Dunkirk.[31][32][34][35][36][37]

Most migrants are attempting to enter the British labour market to work illegally rather than claim asylum in France,[8][7] although the number claiming asylum has risen since the procedures were revised in 2014.[38] Many have paid smugglers to get them to Calais:[8] one migrant from Egypt, a politics graduate, told The Guardian that he "paid $3,000 to leave Egypt, risked my life on a boat to Italy spending days at sea" and that in one month he had tried 20 times to reach England; another, an Eritrean woman with a one-year-old child, had paid £1,825 – and her husband the same – to sail to Italy, but her husband had drowned during the journey.[38] Migrants risk their lives when they try to climb aboard or travel on lorries, occasionally falling off and breaking bones; some fatalities en route are also recorded.[38][39]


A makeshift library in the camp, January 2016
The entrance to St Michaels Church in 2016

According to a doctor working in the jungle for 10 days with Médecins Sans Frontières, the conditions of the shanty town were worse than anything she had seen in slums in Africa. Access to water taps and showers was inadequate.[40]

Médecins du Monde stated in July 2015 that there was "insufficient drinking water (30 taps), practically no toilets (20 for 3,000 people), insufficient food, inadequate health care."[12]

A number of other NGOs worked to provide refugee relief, including the French associations L'Aubergue des Migrants, Salam, Secours Catholique, and Utopia 56. A number of foreign NGOs were also present, including Help Refugees (working in partnership with L'Auberge des Migrants), Refugee Community Kitchen, Calais Kitchens, Belgium Kitchen, Care4Calais, Refugee Info Bus.[41]

Educational services were provided by Jungle Books, the Ecole Laique du chemins des dunes[42] and by Edlumino.[43]

St. Michaels Church, (also known as The Eritrean Church, or Ethiopian Church) was one of the most recognisable religious buildings in the camp, and one of the earliest community constructed structures, built in April 2015.[44] The church was one of the first substantial community structures, beyond rudimentary shelter, that allowed some of the first congregations in the community.[45] The church was featured on the BBC's Songs of Praise in August 2015.[46][47][48]


Banksy made a mural called The Son of a Migrant from Syria in the camp in 2015. It featured Steve Jobs as a migrant.[49]

Jaz O'Hara visited the jungle with her boyfriend in 2015 and decided to collect donations after writing a Facebook post which was shared 60,000 times.[50] They set up a group called CalAid and collected clothing donations in Dalston and Herne Hill.[51] They received hundreds of tents from Reading and Leeds festivals and took the donations to Calais in a fleet of 40 vans.[50]

Libby Freeman, visited Calais in July 2015 with a vanload of donations. On her return she set up Calais Action, a grassroots direct giving charity.[52]

Popstar Lily Allen visited the camp in 2016 at the instigation of a friend who runs a migrant charity. She apologised to a migrant on behalf of the UK.[53]

Letters Live organised a reading at the jungle in 2016 which featured playwright Tom Stoppard and actors Jude Law, Tom Odell and Toby Jones.[54]


On Monday, 24 October 2016, the French authorities began the final major eviction at dawn. It was planned that 6,400 migrants would be moved from the jungle to 280 locations around France, in 170 buses.[55]

On Wednesday, 26 October, the prefect of Pas-de-Calais, Fabienne Buccio, announced that the camp had been cleared, but news reporters stated there were still adults in the camp and unaccompanied children were waiting to be processed.[1] About 6,000 migrants were bussed to temporary reception centres, while many others relocated to a camp in Grande-Synthe or to informal settlements near the ports of northern France.[56]

On Thursday, 27 October, the UK and French governments were condemned by aid workers from groups such as Help Refugees and Save the Children for not respecting the human rights of children. The 200 unaccompanied children, aged 14 to 17, had been lured out of the camp by promises of transport to an asylum centre, but ended up being told by police to return to a derelict and unheated former school building in the camp, after Baroness Sheehan had intervened. Liberal democrat peer Sheehan had travelled to the camp to witness the eviction.[57]

On Wednesday November 2, the final stages of the eviction took place. An estimated 1,500 people including children had been sleeping for a week in shipping containers. Buses took the migrants to asylum centres across the country.[58]

Aid groups later reported that many of former jungle residents had moved to the streets of Paris.[59]


French protesters in Calais hold banners saying "Reimmigrate" and "Diversity is a code word for white genocide", 8 November 2015

Human Rights Watch published a report in July 2017 called Like Living in Hell documenting what it described as continuing human rights abuses by the police against children and adult migrants in the region. It stated that nine months after the eviction of the jungle, around 500 migrants were still living in various locations around Calais. Having interviewed over 60 migrants and more than 20 aid workers, the report noted that police, particularly CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, French riot police), were routinely spraying migrants, their possessions and their food and water with pepper spray.[60]

In popular cultureEdit

  • 2016: Jérôme Sessini made a photo report for Magnum Photos about the jungle.[61]
  • 2017: Nicolas Klotz and Élisabeth Perceval launched a documentary film on the Calais Jungle: "The Wild Frontier" (original title: L'héroïque lande, la frontière brûle, France, 225 min.).[62]
  • 2019: The Jungle was the subject of a major temporary exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum titled Lande: the Calais "Jungle" and Beyond.[63][64]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Calais 'Jungle' cleared of migrants, French prefect says". BBC News. 26 October 2016.
  2. ^ "Lande: the Calais 'Jungle' and Beyond". Bristol University Press. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  3. ^ "La " jungle " de Calais est majoritairement située en zone Seveso" [The Calais "jungle" is mostly situated in the Seveso zone]. Le 19 October 2015 – via Le Monde.
  4. ^ "What is Britain doing to help the Calais migrant crisis? - France 24". 21 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Learning from the Jungle". The Economist. 8 August 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b Melodie Bouchaud, Remembering Sangatte, France's Notorious Refugee Camp, VICE News (4 November 2014).
  7. ^ a b c d e Calais mayor threatens to block port if UK fails to help deal with migrants. Natacha Bouchart, The Guardian, 3 September 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e Migrant squalor in Calais 'jungle'. Emma-Jane Kirby, BBC News, 2 July 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  9. ^ "La conquête méthodique du pouvoir"[permanent dead link], 7 mai 2007
  10. ^ Dawn raid on Calais "Jungle". Archived 23 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine The Connexion, 22 September 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  11. ^ French police round up 200 migrants in Calais swoop. Agence France-Presse, 21 April 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  12. ^ a b Calais crisis: Bicycle repair shops, mosques and an Orthodox church - the town where migrants wait to cross to Britain. Rory Mulholland, The Telegraph, 5 July 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  13. ^ "France has less and less influence in the EU, and fears to use what it still has". The Economist. 7 November 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  14. ^ "EU migrant crisis: Clashes as France clears Calais 'Jungle'". BBC News. 29 February 2016.
  15. ^ a b c d Matthias Blamont, Migrant shelter made of shipping containers opens in France's Calais, Reuters (11 January 2016).
  16. ^ Sarah Elzas, Calais Jungle to be demolished, yet migrants resist government rehousing, Radio France Internationale (22 February 2016).
  17. ^ Patrick Kingsley, Calais 'Jungle' residents defy bulldozers as police issue ultimatum to leave, The Guardian (12 January 2016).
  18. ^ "Calais 'Jungle' eviction gets go-ahead". BBC News Online. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  19. ^ "EU migrant crisis: Clashes as France clears Calais 'Jungle'". 29 February 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  20. ^ a b Clashes as authorities dismantle Calais 'Jungle', France24 (3 March 2016).
  21. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique; Walker, Peter; Quinn, Ben. "Calais 'Jungle' camp: clashes as authorities demolish homes". Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  22. ^ "Brexit Could Bring Calais 'Jungle' To Britain". Sky News. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  23. ^ Wintour, Patrick; Asthana, Anushka (3 March 2016). "French minister: Brexit would threaten Calais border arrangement". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  24. ^ Yeung, Peter (4 April 2016). "Calais 'Jungle': 75% of refugees have 'experienced police violence'". Independent. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  25. ^ a b c Dozens injured at fight at Calais 'Jungle' migrant camp, Deutsche Welle (27 May 2016).
  26. ^ Davies, Thom; Isakjee, Arshad; Dhesi, Surindar (1 January 2017). "Violent Inaction: The Necropolitical Experience of Refugees in Europe". Antipode. 49 (5): 1263–1284. doi:10.1111/anti.12325. ISSN 1467-8330.
  27. ^ "Great Wall Of Calais: Work begins on barrier to stop migrants".
  28. ^ Buchanan, Elsa (21 July 2016). "Migrant crisis: A record 7,300 people now live in Calais' Jungle migrant camp". Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  29. ^ "Calais capers: Threats to move Britain's border back from Calais to Dover are mostly empty". The Economist. 3 September 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  30. ^ "Accès aux soins: Médecins du Monde alerte sur la situation des migrants".
  31. ^ a b "Nothelfer bauen Lager in Frankreich - Europa - DW.COM - 18.02.2016". Deutsche Welle.
  32. ^ a b Malm, Sara (5 January 2016). "The unknown refugee camp 'far worse than the Calais jungle'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  33. ^ Calais 'Jungle': Migrants hit dead end in journey to UK Fergal Keane, BBC News, 9 October 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  34. ^ Cooper, Yvette (7 January 2016). "The most shocking thing about Calais is that it's not even too big to solve". The Guardian.
  35. ^ "France: Where refugees go to avoid 'the jungle'". Al Jazeera.
  36. ^ Tzermias, Nikos (16 February 2016). "Neuer Migranten-Dschungel: Elend zur Abschreckung" (in German) – via NZZ.
  37. ^ "Kein Slum, das Flüchtlingslager ist eine offene Müllhalde" [Not a slum, the refugee camp is an open landfill] (in German). Aargauer Zeitung. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  38. ^ a b c 'At night it's like a horror movie' – inside Calais's official shantytown. Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, 6 April 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  39. ^ Taylor, Matthew; Grandjean, Guy (23 December 2014). "At least 15 migrants died in 'shameful' Calais conditions in 2014". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  40. ^ "Calais, la jungle, une médecin mayennaise témoigne" [Calais, the jungle, a Mayennais doctor bears witness]. La Mayenne, on adore !. 19 October 2015. Archived from the original on 20 October 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  41. ^ "Who's Who". Calaidipedia. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  42. ^ "Ecole Laique du Chemin des dunes". Facebook. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  43. ^ Scott, Natalie (27 April 2016). "Teaching in France's refugee camps". SecEd. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  44. ^ Fraser, Giles (7 August 2015). "The migrants' church in Calais is a place of raw prayer and defiant hope". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  45. ^ Hayden, Sally (1 February 2016). "Church and Mosque Bulldozed in Calais Jungle Refugee Camp". Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  46. ^ Ahmed, Aaqil (14 August 2015). "Why Songs of Praise is visiting the migrant camp in Calais". BBC. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  47. ^ Jessica Elgot (8 August 2015). "Church of England defends Songs of Praise filmed in Calais migrant camp". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  48. ^ "Inside the Calais migrants' church – in pictures". The Guardian. 4 August 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  49. ^ "Banksy work in Calais 'Jungle' shows Steve Jobs as migrant". BBC News. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  50. ^ a b "Couple overwhelmed by Calais donations". BBC News. 6 September 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  51. ^ Alwakeel, Ramzy (6 September 2015). "CalAid: Hundreds descend on Dalston social centre to donate goods for Calais refugees". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  52. ^ Fishwick, Carmen (25 May 2019). "A homemade humanitarian mission: what it's like to take donations to Calais" – via The Guardian.
  53. ^ "Lily Allen's been trolled after visiting a migrant camp in Calais". BBC. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  54. ^ "British celebrities highlight refugee plight in Calais 'Jungle'". The New Arab. 22 February 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  55. ^ Baumard, Maryline (21 October 2016). "" Jungle " de Calais : le démantèlement débutera lundi à l'aube" [Calais "Jungle": the dismantling will begin Monday at dawn]. Le (in French). Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  56. ^ Gentleman, Amelia (5 November 2016). "Refugees take to hiding in northern France after Calais camp demolished". The Guardian – via
  57. ^ Gentleman, Amelia; O'Carroll, Lisa; Travis, Alan (27 October 2016). "Calais minors lured from camp then abandoned by authorities". Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  58. ^ Gentleman, Amelia (2 November 2016). "Last of Calais refugee children evacuated as camp clearance ends". Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  59. ^ Nossiter, Adam (3 November 2016). "Paris Is the New Calais, With Scores of Migrants Arriving Daily". New York Times. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  60. ^ [1] "Like Living in Hell", Human Rights Watch, 26 July 2017
  61. ^ Sessini, Jérôme. "The Calais Jungle". Magnum. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  62. ^ Prozeniuk, Tyler. "Review: 'The Wild Frontier'". Point of View Magazine. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  63. ^ Pitt Rivers Museum. "Exhibition - Lande: the Calais 'Jungle' and Beyond".
  64. ^ University of Oxford. "Lande: the Calais 'Jungle' and Beyond (TORCH)".

External linksEdit