First study of conditions at camp known as the Jungle finds an ‘absolutely abject situation’, with ‘harmful levels of bacteria and appalling hygiene’
Conditions in the Calais camp known as the Jungle are diabolical, with cramped makeshift tents plagued by rats, water sources contaminated by faeces and inhabitants suffering from tuberculosis, scabies and post-traumatic stress, according to a new report.
The first study of conditions in the migrant and refugee camp reveals the shocking reality inside one of Europe’s largest shanty towns, where about 3,000 residents, including an increasing number of women and children, are living in conditions “far below any minimum standards for refugee camps”.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham, working with the Doctors of the World group, found a piped water tap to have E coli and Coliform present above safe standards. Both bacteria are “indicative of faecal contamination”, according to the report.
“This study exposes the awful truth about the Calais refugee crisis – that it is a humanitarian emergency of the first order in one of the world’s most thriving nations,” said Leigh Daynes, the director of Doctors of the World .
“Refugees are hungry and distressed, and they live in diabolical conditions. Their suffering is all the more acute because the often perilous journeys they undertook to get to France were physically arduous and emotionally fraught.”
The majority of inhabitants questioned by researchers over a two-month period between April and June were refugees fleeing war or despotic regimes in Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea, she said.
“Internationally agreed standards for the provision of aid and protection in refugee situations are nowhere to be found in Calais. That is a blight on the reputation of European states, who should and can do better, as they often do in refugee crises elsewhere.”
Migrant camps in Calais
A lack of washing facilities and refrigeration for food was resulting in diarrhoea, stomach cramps, fever and vomiting, the report found, while a lack of debris collection from the camp encouraged rats and mice, which can carry, salmonella and Leptospira, that latter of which is associated with Weils disease and can cause organ failure.
Toilet facilities were “overflowing, and hygiene conditions were subsequently extremely poor”, said the study, with only four cubicles until April. Currently the report estimates there are 40 toilets – one per 75 inhabitants – which is “far below the standards set by the UNHCR for refugee camps” at one to 20 in emergency situations.
The fact that people had access to only one meal a day was creating unsanitary conditions and a wide variety of stomach conditions because food was being stored and stretched out, said Dr Thom Davies, one of the University of Birmingham researchers.
“It is an absolutely abject situation in Calais, there are harmful levels of bacteria and the hygiene situation is appalling,” he added.
Injuries incurred when refugees were fleeing war, or when inhabitants tried to climb on board vehicles, were common in the camp, and treatment insufficient, according to the report: “Testimonies from medical professionals working for NGOs have indicated that crutches have been refused to migrant patients suffering from leg fractures.”
Inhabitants of the Jungle also reported being hit by police and sprayed with teargas, while others said they had been attacked by Calais residentsalong the peripheral roads of the camp during the night. A fear of sexual violence resulted in women grouping together or with family members to ensure safety.
The report is critical of the French government and the EU which it accuses of producing a limited response to “public and environmental health-related problems”. It adds: “The political tension and discourses around the Calais camp and wider migration issues are undoubtedly slowing institutional responses to the problems being encountered.”
The report’s authors are urging the EU, British and French governments to treat Calais as a humanitarian crisis rather than simply a matter of border security.
Daynes added: “This report confirms that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the dreadful humanitarian disaster on our doorstep.”