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Desperate migrants storm UK-bound trucks outside Calais

Nearly 1,000 people are still camped out in Northern France desperately hoping to get into Britain, despite the demolition of the Calais jungle 15 months ago. 

Sky News has witnessed the daily attempt by some of the young migrants to access trucks bound for the UK, just hours before the French President is due to arrive in the port town.

Emmanuel Macron is meeting police and charities who are trying, with conflicting methods, to deal with the town’s continuing migration problems.

His visit comes two days before he travels to the UK where he is expected to call on the British government to take in more migrants and contribute more money for the policing and security of the port town.

Migrants line up during a food distribution from aid associations in Calais in January
Image:
Migrants line up during a food distribution from aid associations in Calais in January

Speaking to Le Parisien newspaper, France’s interior minister, Gérard Collomb, who is accompanying Mr Macron, said he hoped the UK would agree to “concrete measures regarding the covering of a certain number of costs by the British, as well as the receiving of a greater number of people, in terms of refugees and non-accompanied minors”.

The demolition of the notorious jungle camp in October 2016, under the orders of Mr Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande, significantly reduced the number of migrants concentrated in one area.

However, many just dispersed to smaller camps across northern France. Others went to Paris where numbers have dramatically increased.

Calais remains a magnet for hundreds of young people determined to reach the UK.

The men look around the back of the lorry before getting in
Image:
The men look around the back of the lorry before getting in

Mr Macron is expected to call for a five-point plan to help solve the situation. It will include:

:: Better control migratory flows
:: A better welcome for asylum seekers
:: Acceleration of the processing of asylum applications
:: Working at EU level to ensure the laws of expulsion for failed asylum applicants are more effective
:: Promote the integration of refugees

In 2017, there were 100,000 asylum applications in France – a 17% increase on 2016.

Anecdotally, most are from countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan in Africa as well as a significant proportion from Afghanistan.

Estimates of the numbers currently in the area vary largely because they are moving all the time.

The police have orders to prevent the pitching of tents. The consequence is a continuous game of cat-and-mouse which often leads to violent confrontations.

Local charity workers, whose constant presence in the area gives them the most up-to-date understanding of the situation, say there are about 700 around Calais and a further 300 or so to the east in Dunkirk.

Mr Macron is expected to ask Britain to take in more migrants
Image:
Mr Macron is expected to ask Britain to take in more migrants

Government officials claim the number is smaller, with between 350 and 500 in and around Calais.

In the hours before Mr Macron’s arrival, Sky News watched a small group of young African men as they attempted to stowaway in a refuelling lorry.

We filmed from a distance as they ran towards the rear of the Croatian-registered vehicle. Four of them climbed into the rear trailer. The others looked for hiding places under the truck, and then gave up and ran off.

Minutes later we approached the driver who was aware of the migrants’ presence. He opened the trailer and two heads popped up from between the cargo.

Abruptly, he shooed them away. Haulage firms are dealing with this on a daily basis.

The single, privately contracted, security guard at the fuel depot watched, apparently powerless.


Mark Stone meets up with teen in Calais 'Jungle' he'd previously seen in Sicily.

Video:
Teen migrant who travelled thousands of miles

The other two young men could not be found but the driver seemed convinced that his vehicle was empty.

In the woods up the road, not far from the old jungle camp, we found 24-year-old Zahid Ullah Oryakhil from Afghanistan.

He took us to see his bed for the night, in the undergrowth under a tarpaulin.

From his bag, under his stash of bread rolls – donated daily by charities – he produced his paperwork.

Everyone has papers. It’s their proof that they exist. Often there is written testimony too – his has been translated into English by someone he’d met on his journey. It outlines his reasons for wanting a new home: “Taliban kill my brother” one section reads.

The driver ushered out some of those hidden in the lorry
Image:
The driver ushered out some of those hidden in the lorry

Among his papers is a newish document from the French government which states that Zahid’s asylum claim in France has been rejected.

He has been told to leave France, but he is not forcibly deported.

Nearby another Afghan introduced himself as Mohammas Maroufkhil. His Afghan ID, tatty but neatly folded in a plastic bag, says he was born in 1991.

“In 2010 I did asylum [claim] for the first time in Belgium. For nine years I was in Belgium. I stay in the camps, sometimes I stay with my friends. Always I try to make my life in Belgium because I have a problem in Afghanistan,” he explained.

He said that he had applied for asylum nine times in Belgium and was rejected every time. After the fifth failed attempt in 2013, he went to what was the Calais Jungle and made it, on a truck, to London.

“They deport me from the UK on 24th March 2014 and send me back to Belgium. But I come to Calais again, and I go to England again. I go out of the truck in England. Police catch me. They send me again to Belgium.”

He then tried for asylum four more times in Belgium and after the most recent attempt, he was given six hours to leave the country.

He is now back in Calais to try to reach the UK for the third time. He explains that he’s heard rumours that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will increases his chances of asylum in Britain.

Although they see four get in, only two get out
Image:
Although they see four get in, only two get out

Mohammas and Zahid’s stories demonstrate their determination but also point to a failing system.

Asylum claims are rejected, in some cases repeatedly, but the claimants are not sent home or helped where they are.

Instead they are pushed out of one country to become someone else’s problem. It is happening all the time.

Not far away from their woodland home is the £2.3m motorway wall built which lines the port approach road.

Built in 2016, with British money, it was designed to keep the migrants off the trucks. But every day proves that it is useless.

Down the road, at the end of the wall’s reach, another group shelter from the rain under a bridge. Sodden, miserable and desperate, they wait for their moment.

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