Why migrants shunned France and chose Britain – by Helen Chandler-Wilde and Luke Mintz

We conclude our series of reports on the current migrant crisis with a perspective from the refugees themselves.

A report by Helen Chandler-Wilde and Luke Mintz for the Telegraph on the plight of migrants crossing the Channel is a harrowing story regardless of one's political views on the matter.

'Push' and 'pull' factors are equally to blame it seems. On the one hand conditions in Calais are said to be abysmal which may account for so many wishing to leave France and take their chance in un-seaworthy vessels across the 22 mile stretch to England. For them anything is better than remaining where they are:

"Alem used to live in a tent in the Calais “Jungle”, the squalid 1.5 sq mile area of scrubland that became a symbol of Europe’s migration crisis. The jungle itself was demolished in 2016, but some 2,000 migrants remain in makeshift camps in wooded areas nearby.

Every day, the French police arrive to move the migrants on; by nightfall, they have to find another home, under a bridge or in a disused warehouse. The Calais authorities have even been accused of installing large rocks at some distribution points to prevent aid vans from parking.

“I like England more than France, I have friends here,” Alem says in broken English. “It was not good in France; England is better. I want to study [in the UK], I hope later.”

His sentiment is echoed by many of the men we speak to by the barracks. In a survey of 402 people at the Calais Jungle camp conducted in 2015, and published in the International Health journal in 2017, researchers found that two-thirds had experienced at least one act of violence; only 12 per cent wanted to remain in France, while 82 per cent hoped to travel to Britain.

Indeed, hostility from local authorities is a key reason why many migrants to Europe move from one country to another, says Rob McNeil, deputy director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University.

Jawmar Ali Mahmoud, who fled from Kurdistan to Calais after being tortured for political dissent in an Iraqi prison, says he would “never” claim asylum in France – citing fear of the French police as one of the main reasons.

“People [here in Calais] are cold, hungry, penniless,” he told last week’s Media Storm podcast. “I think police in Kurdistan, police in France are no different... Even if I am in the Jungle 10 years, I won’t want asylum in France.”

And then there are the 'pull' factors:

Hussein, a 27-year-old Iraqi, was one of 35 migrants to sail across the Channel in a 16ft boat three months ago: “It was 12 hours on the boat and I was very cold – I was getting the water out with my shoes.” He also now lives at the Napier Barracks, and mentions English as a key selling point of his new home.

“The language, the people are good,” he says. “Iraq was no good because of the war. I have no family here, but I will bring them when I have my papers.”

Dezhwah, 24, a fellow Iraqi came by boat on June 1, having read “lots of books, lots of novels” about Britain before crossing: “I know England is a very good country, they help other guys,” he says.

What’s more, informal work on the black market is usually easier to come by in Britain, due to looser regulations. In France, all citizens must have some form of government-approved identification, a rule that does not exist in the UK (a plan to introduce compulsory ID cards was considered briefly by Tony Blair’s government in 2006, but dropped after a public backlash)."

The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:

News Report from the Telegraph - Why we shunned France and chose Britain - 28.11.21
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