A second major migrant camp is forming on the northern French coastline, where trafficking gangs are demanding large sums of money to ferry migrant across the Channel. The new camp is less than twenty miles from the notorious Calais Jungle, where as many as 7,000 migrants are congregated.
Amid woodland, just across from a new housing estate on the outskirts of Grande-Synthe, more than 2,200 migrants, mostly Kurds from Iraq, Iran and Syria are camped out, their numbers growing steadily from a few dozen at the beginning of the year.
The camp has so far not received the attention that its more notorious counterpart, The Jungle has attracted, making it an attractive alternative for migrants seeking to escape crack-downs by the French authorities.
For much of the last month, a war has been playing out between the 7,000 or so migrants at Calais, riot police who are trying to hold them back, and lorry drivers who are bearing the brunt of the crisis: the migrants have taken to wielding knives, throwing rocks, and even hurling wooden stakes at the lorries passing by in the hope of slowing them enough to clamber on board.
Amid the turmoil, some migrants have opted to head north, to Grande-Synthe, just outside of Dunkirk, about twenty miles from Calais. Here, for a fee, gangs will transport the migrants by yacht or dinghy across the channel to English beaches under cover of night.
According to The Times. Damien Carême, the town’s mayor has accused the French government of taking zero interest in his town’s camp, despite it being a hotbed of trafficking activity.
Last Monday two suspects in a British registered car were arrested after police saw them taking money from migrants. €695 was found in the car. An hour later, another British-registered car was stopped with several migrants inside.
Trafficking gangs seem to have a choke-hold on the camp. When the town council attempted to alleviate the squalid conditions in the camp by providing free municipal showers, but Carême says the gangs have even started charging for those.
Yet despite the unsanitary conditions in the camp – a doctor with Médecins Sans Frontières, who are operating in the camp, called it “terrifying” – the migrants are keen to use it as a springboard into England.
According to Carême, 300 migrants living in a nearby camp run by a smuggling ring were moved to centres across France in a bid to break up the trade recently, but within three days they had all returned to Grande-Synthe in the hope of securing passage across the sea.
Migrants in the camp say that the gangs charge between £2,000 and £4,000 per person to smuggle them into the UK, which is in line to other reports on the trade. Last week a group of 18 people appeared in court to face people trafficking charges. The court heard that they were allegedly charging €6,000 (£4,400) per person, or €20,000 (£14,500) for a family booking.