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The UK builds a wall in Calais to keep refugees out

The UK will build a wall in Calais: the alleged solution to a humanitarian crisis that sees thousands of refugees in “the Jungle” encampment attempt to reach the country every day.

The UK will build a kilometre-long, 4-metre high wall in Calais, France in an effort to block refugees from entering the country. The wall is designed to stop those living in the nearby encampment dubbed “the Jungle” from climbing into lorries and other vehicles heading to the UK through the port of Calais and the Eurotunnel.

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Migrants walk past security fencing at the Jungle camp in Calais © Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

There were 22,000 “breaches of the port road defence” by refugees in June 2016 alone according to French police commissioner Patrick Visser-Bourdon. Britain has agreed to pay for the construction of the wall that will cost an estimated 2.3 million British pounds (around 2.25 million euros). These will come out of a 17 million pound fund (over 20 million euros) given by the UK government to French authorities in March 2016 to finance the strengthening of border controls. The stated reasons for this agreement and construction of the wall are reducing the disruption to the port that is caused by refugees attempting to climb into lorries, as well as keeping refugees out of the UK.

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A makeshift church in the Jungle camp in Calais © Antonio Masiello/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Jungle

The refugee encampment is home to an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people – of which over 600 are unaccompanied children – coming primarily from war-torn countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan. Many refugees risk their lives on a daily basis as they attempt to travel to the UK.

This had led to tension with lorry drivers and Calais residents calling for the closure of the camp, with claims that refugees have threatened lorry drivers. The tension between locals and those living in the Jungle has led to an “apartheid state“, according the Calais Migrant Solidarity organisation, which states that shops, bars, supermarkets and local hospitals refuse entry to refugees. Within the camp itself, aid workers have said that they’re “running out of tents, food, and space because so many new people are arriving everyday“.

The reasons refugees are heading to the UK, despite having reached Europe already, are numerous. A key one is that for those who speak English already, the UK is a more attractive destination than other countries. In addition, family connections tie many in the camp to the UK, as there are already large Eritrean, Afghani and Pakistani communities in the country, for example.

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Lorries drive along a protection fence, preventing access to a circular road leading to the port of Calais, next to the Jungle © Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

The wall

The building of the wall, which will run along the main road to the port in Calais, will add to the present security measures in place that include barbed wire and fencing. Many have argued, including lorry drivers themselves, that the wall is not the answer. “The decision to build a wall in Calais is the latest wrong move in what is the ongoing scandal of the handling of the plight of refugees in northern France,” according to Jean Lambert, European Parliament member and spokesperson for the British Green Party.

This measure is part of a wider process throughout Europe of seeking to build physical barriers to stop refugees from entering certain parts of the continent, with walls constructed also along the Hungarian and Austrian borders. As refugees continue escaping conflict zones including Syria and Afghanistan, walls remain non-solutions to a deep humanitarian crisis.

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