The population of migrants living in Calais has risen from 3,000 to 4,000 in just over one month as the Jungle, the transitory camp those hoping to reach Britain illegally call home, feels the effects of an influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees that has been causing havoc across eastern Europe.
In the past the Jungle, a cluster of a 1,200 tents in the dunes and bushes on the outskirts of Calais, has been inhabited predominantly by Afghan, Eritrean and Sudanese migrants. However, in the past month the population of Syrian refugees has increased to 350, making the group one of the largest ethnic minorities in the camp.
For the first time, there is also an Iraqi presence in the area. For Maya Konforti, from humanitarian group L'Auberge des Migrants, there is little doubt that Calais is experiencing the first trickle-down effects of the wave of refugees currently wending their way through Serbia, Hungary and Croatia. She is preparing for the arrival of a thousand more migrants in the coming weeks.
"We are having massive arrivals," Konforti told IBTimes UK "We have more Syrians – 350 now – and there are Iraqis. Before we hardly had any," she added. "We are getting a very small percentage compared to those that are arriving elsewhere in Europe. Obviously though, we are still going to get that small percentage," she added.
The 4,000 refugees and migrants currently living in Calais, which is soon expected to reach 5,000, pales in comparison to the 160,000 refugees who will be distributed across Europe this year under plans proposed by the EU Commission. However, the struggle for L'Auberge des Migrants and the other organisations and charities operating in the jungle lies in the lack of assistance offered by the French and British governments and other authorities.
"This is a place where there is absolutely no care for the refugees," Konforti explained. "If these people are going to be here during the winter, these people cannot spent the whole winter in a tent," she added. Using an increase in donations, which have come mostly from Britain but also from Belgium and Holland, activists in the Jungle hope to create sufficient winter shelter for 2,000 people in the next two months.
French government assistance for women and children living in Calais at the nearby Jules Ferry Centre is slow and wasteful, Konforti claims. Extra capacity for the vulnerable people living in the government-run facility is not scheduled to be ready until November and December when temperatures will drop dramatically. "Volunteers move much faster," she said.
In July, the migrant crisis in Calais reached its peak with 2,000 people attempt to storm the Eurotunnel in one night, and nightly attempts to break through into Coquelles terminal. At the time, 5,000 migrants lived in the Jungle as the result of a high volume of migrants reaching Europe over the Mediterranean.
Now the volume of refugees coming from Africa has been surpassed by the numbers arriving from the Middle East, across the Aegean. European Council president Donald Tusk has summoned EU leaders to an extraordinary summit on Wednesday 23 September to discuss migration and a scheme to redistribute 120,000 asylum seekers across the continent, as the situation continues to escalate.
The British government has pledged to take 20,000 Serbian refugees over the course of the current parliament which ends in 2020: approximately five every day. However, Prime Minister David Cameron has said these asylum seekers will be taken directly from camps on the border with Syria, to dissuade refugees from making the perilous journey to Europe.
In the Calais region, French and British Authorities have stepped up security around the Eurotunnel terminal and at the Port of Calais. France sent 120 riot police to the region at the end of July and Britain provided £7m ($11m) funding for security. The two nations have also agreed a raft of other security measures to tackle the crisis.
Existing French forces will be supplemented with mobile policing units, and the UK will provide CCTV, floodlights and infrared detection technology. Additional freight search teams, including detection dogs, will also be deployed on a 24-hour basis.
By Callum Paton