NEWS

Why Do Calais Migrants Want To Come To Britain? And Why Don’t Refugees Stay In France?

Connections, the language, and hostilities.

24/10/2016 16:01 | Updated 25 October 2016

As the demolition of ‘The Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais began on Monday, the plight of the some 6,500 refugees living there was brought into fresh perspective.

The demolition comes a week after a first group of child refugees arrived in Britain under the EU’s Dublin Regulation, which allows people to be reunited with their families.

But there are plenty of other cases of migrants from the camp trying to stow away in lorries, or even walk the Channel tunnel, in an attempt to gain entry to Britain.

So why do many Calais migrants want to come to the UK? And why don’t they stay in France?

Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
Migrants queue at the start of the evacuation of 'The Jungle' camp in Calais, France on Monday

One resident of ‘The Jungle’ told Sky News on Monday: “I feel I’d like to go there, there is no special reason. My friends tell me living in the UK is fine. I want to stay here because I want to go to the UK.”

“I have family and if you have family there things might work out,” the man from Afghanistan who chose not to be identified said.

The family connections

Many of those living in the camps at Calais have a connection to the UK most often through family or friends. These connections are often one of the strongest pulls for those travelling through Europe.

Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
A coloured bracelet is placed on the wrist of a migrant at Calais on Monday

Refugees also have a legal right under UK and international laws to bring their families over to Britain to join them.

The British Red Cross said at least 580 Syrian refugees came to the UK under a family reunion visa between January and September 2016, including 280 children.

It found many arrived directly from areas of conflict, including Aleppo.

Abdalrhman Ismail / Reuters
The Syrian city of Aleppo has been heavily damaged during the ongoing war in the country

During the same period, the organisation said at least 487 refugee children from other countries, including Iraq and Sudan, arrived in the UK after being granted a family reunion visa.

The language

Many refugees living in Calais speak English and see the UK as the most logical place to begin building a life as a result.

Knowing at least some English presents a clear advantage to migrants attempting to integrate and seek work.

Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
A migrant family walks with their belongings on Sunday, the day before the evacuation of 'The Jungle' at Calais

“If you were forced to flee, wouldn’t you head somewhere people speak the same language, as you look for a job and try to make friends?,” the British Red Cross wrote.

There are other reasons, too.

French asylum laws prevent applicants from seeking employment for months and in some cases years.

And 74% of applications last year were rejected, The Local reported.

Pascal Rossignol / Reuters
An aerial view shows tents and makeshift shelters in 'The Jungle' camp at Calais

What’s more, the condition of accommodation for asylum seekers in France “is worse than the ‘Jungle”.

One Calais volunteer told Business Insider UK: “One of my friends gave up and applied for asylum in France, and he said the home where he was sent, had living conditions which were worse than in the Jungle.”

“From what we’re hearing, it’s just luck, some of those homes are really great, others are awful.”

Farad, 26, from Sudan, told the UNHCR the process of applying for asylum in France persuaded him to try his luck getting to the UK.

“I did not ask (for asylum) in France, because I see the situation here. It is very long and many people are rejected,” he said.

Hostilities in Calais further encourage those in ‘The Jungle’ to attempt to get to the UK.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Riot police have been a common sight for residents of 'The Jungle' in recent months

Earlier this year, clashes between residents of the camps and police saw officers deploy tear gas and wear riot-style protective clothing.

But these reasons won’t be true for every migrant at Calais. And there will be other draws for those making their way to Britain.

Jan Brulc of the Migrants’ Rights Network previously told The Huffington Post UK: “We need to keep the perspective on the fact that Germany takes over 100,000 asylum seekers and Britain takes just over 20,000 every year.

“Not all asylum seekers are trying to make it to the UK. For the ones that do want to, it’s usually down to the fact that they might have family members in the UK already so they think it might be easier for them to re-establish their lives, or they speak English.”

'The Jungle' - Calais Camp Destruction Begins

Related on HuffPost

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS