Relief, shattered dreams for migrants leaving Jungle



CALAIS, FRANCE, Serene Assir / Zoé Leroy- Abbas Hussein Ali from Sudan was one of the first in line as the evacuation of the squalid Jungle refugee camp began on Monday, overjoyed to finally have a chance at a dignified life.
Ali, 25, was up before dawn to be among the first to get on one of the buses taking the camp's estimated 6,000-8,000 occupants to 451 centres across France.



After four long months living in grim conditions in the camp, which has served as a launchpad for migrants desperate to reach Britain, all Ali wants now is "to study". "I want to learn French," he said.
Wahid, a 23-year-old from Afghanistan, was also glad to leave.
"We don't know yet where we are going, but it will obviously be better than the Jungle, which was made for animals not humans," he said. "We will be in a home."
But freshly scrawled graffiti on the walls of makeshift shelters and shops in the camp told another story.
"I lost my hope," read one piece. "Is this justice? No," read another.
Some people were still intent on starting a new life across the Channel.
Hammoudi, a young Syrian man from the devastated city of Aleppo, was among those who were dispirited, but who refused to give up on the dream of reaching Britain.
He and his friends escaped the Jungle overnight Sunday, setting up camp nearby, hoping to keep trying to cross the Channel on the back of a lorry.
- 'My dream is ruined' -
"My dream is ruined," 22-year-old Hammoudi told AFP.
"My hope was to be able to reach the UK, where I believe we as refugees would be better treated," said the Syrian, whose cousin was killed in a bombing in July.
Mahmoud al-Saleh, a 22-year-old from near Aleppo, said he was undecided about whether to register for transfer to a French accommodation centre.
Sipping tea from a plastic cup, he spoke nervously, saying he feared trouble if he did not submit to the evacuation order.
Saleh said he thought his chances of finding work were far better in Britain than in France.
"I have to send money to my family in Syria. They have nothing... I just feel -- either I get to Britain someday, or I am better off in Syria," he said.
Saleh has tried five times to reach Britain, smuggled aboard a lorry. But he was caught every time and sent back.
Many heading out of the buses were heading to French towns they had never heard of, including Fahim, a young Afghan.
"The most important thing is that we are leaving Calais," he said on the coach to Nogent-le-Rotrou, 130 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of Paris.
"We had the choice between two possible towns, but we did not know them," said Fahim, 26, who was travelling with two friends. They ended up picking at random.
As the bus drove off, the migrants onboard waved farewell to the Jungle, their faces pressed close to the glass.
- 'My country is not safe' -
Back in the camp, Farhan, a 12-year-old Ethiopian boy who survived a harrowing sea voyage from Libya to Italy before travelling overland to Calais, said he wished he could just go home.
"But my country is not safe," said the boy, whose large brown eyes gave away his fear and uncertainty. "My heart has been broken since I left my family last year. I have not even been able to speak to them."
Farhan was among scores of minors from the majority Oromo community in Ethiopia that has waged nearly a year of protests against a government largely made up of minority Tigrayans.
"Like everyone else, he travelled here alone," said Solan, a 24-year-old Ethiopian volunteer working with the minors.
Britain has, in the past week, taken in nearly 200 child refugees out of an estimated 1,300 from the Jungle, and is expected to take dozens more.
Ashram, a 17-year-old Afghan, said he would try to renew his attempts to stow away on a truck heading across the Channel to Britain if his application failed.
"I'm used to it now," he said.
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Tuesday, October 25th 2016
Serene Assir / Zoé Leroy
           


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