'I don't feel safe here': Refugee says law won't stop small boat crossings
Rachel Younger speaks to people in Calais - who say the PM's legislation won't stop them from trying to seek safety in the UK
It’s a world away from the Palace of Westminster, but if you want to gauge the impact of the government’s plans to stop small boat crossings, the windswept outskirts of Calais are a good place to start.
There are around a hundred small tents and tarpaulins pitched on wasteland between a supermarket and a haulage depot; a makeshift camp taking a battering from the relentless wind and rain.
There are no toilets, nowhere to cook or wash clothes, just the smoke from a handful of fires and a muddy brook filled with rubbish.
It’s home, if you can call it that, for hundreds of men and a handful of teenage boys who have fled war torn Sudan.
With temperatures not much above freezing at night, theirs is a miserable existence.
It’s hard to imagine leaving friends and family behind, travelling through Libya and then crossing Europe on lorries and small boats, only to end up in a place as desperate as this.
But what they’ve already endured is key to working out if the prime minister's plans to stop them crossing the Channel add up.
One refugee - we’ll call him Omer as he doesn’t want to be identified - tells me he was 14 when he left Darfur and spent three years reaching France.
He has no intention of ending that journey by applying for asylum here.
“I want to go to the UK” he tells me. “I don’t feel safe here because the people hate us. The UK is a nice place and I’ll feel safe there”.
He has plans to study and become an engineer - “someone useful”, as he puts it and refuses to believe he might be unwanted.
Without enough money to pay smugglers for a place on a boat, last night he tried and failed to smuggle himself onboard a lorry.
Tonight he’ll try again.
When I tell him about new legalisation proposing immediate detention and deportation for anyone entering the UK and a ban on ever returning, he is unmoved.
“Would you still try to get in?” I ask.
“Hell yeah” laughs the teenager, who has learnt English on the road by watching YouTube videos.
Omer has friends who have already made it across. Figures from the Refugee Council show that over 80% of Sudanese migrants who claimed asylum last year were granted permission to stay.
The new legalisation would change that, but Omer says it only makes him more determined to reach London.
His is the determination of the desperate. But having left his parents and nine brothers and sisters behind him and risked everything to get this far, he has little left to lose.
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