The Jungle

IMG_0386Wednesday 4th November. The Jungle, Calais, France – I’ve been working in this somewhat unimaginatively named refugee camp for two days now. All the images here have been shot on my iPhone. I’m shooting the project on film, mostly medium format, and a Fuji Instax instant camera (this camera has acted as an excellent ‘ice-breaker’)

I really don’t know where to begin describing the situation in The Jungle, to be honest… it’s not what I expected – I’d visualised hundreds of makeshift shelters, dotted randomly around the fields and sand dunes, but it’s not like that. Entering the camp reminded me of a music festival – rows of overflowing toilets, mud, piles of rubbish and people wandering, aimlessly. But there is order.

The Jungle is situated just off the main motorway into Calais and covers an area of land about 3km square. The camp is divided into several distinct ‘districts’, mainly Somalian, Kuwaiti, Sudanese, Iranian, Eritrean and Afghan. All these districts are joined together by very rough tracks, wide enough to drive trucks down, some of which have been paved with stones. Around the entrance to the camp there are several shops, probably about 15, and restaurants. The shops are mainly run by Afghans, legal residents in France who have simply set-up businesses to make money. Aside from the tracks, I’d say that there isn’t very much more available space, the place is rammed full. Nobody really knows the actual number of people here, but estimates are around 5000 – a figure that is set to double over the next few months. ‘Homes’ here range from flimsy dome tents, through to wooden huts and even caravans. There’s also a lot of charities working here offering food, medical and dental care, toiletries, clothing and bedding, etc. There’s also schools, churches (and other religious centres) and a few libraries.

There’s a huge amount of rumour and media hype about The Jungle, most of which is vastly exaggerated, or simply untrue. It’s unimportant to me why these people are here – what is important is that they are living in appalling conditions, winter is upon us and these people have nothing, so it’s only going to get worse. The camp was fairly dry yesterday, but it rained last night and this morning, so today the whole place feels even more grim.

I’ve realised, pretty quickly, that this isn’t a project that I’m going to be able to shoot over the space of 4 days – it’s going to take months. So this will be the first of many visits to The Jungle.

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8 comments

  1. Thanks Phil for your report. It seems to be all over the same. The window of time, where countries without borders was granted, is over. It needs the civil society, it needs us to regain these achievements. I am following you with great interest

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  2. Excellent photos (portraying the habitation and living conditions). I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like when it rains and/or gets freezing cold, especially for the inhabitants who come from warmer climates.

    This is certainly a project that will take much time and sensitivity to photograph. It’s all very well so say that western nations could do much more to help these people, but it will take an extraordinary amount of skill and experience to co-ordinate the constant arrivals, shelter, food, sanitation and so on.

    They must be very courageous people to set off in the hope of a better life in such an alien environment. I imagine the fear and uncertainly must leave so many mental scars on the young and elderly in particular.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A real eye opener Phil and I have to say that I had little understanding of the living conditions. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like when it rains and is cold.
    It is certainly an area of political controversy but we are all humans after all and these courageous, some may call fool hardy people require help from all quarters not just the volunteering groups. I know that a small of aid is available, but still more needs to be done as the winter takes hold.

    Liked by 1 person

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