It’s striking how easily you can walk into the ‘Jungle’. An old sign for a sports centre, now scribbled over, marks the main track into this semi-permanent camp that has become home for around 4000 refugees and migrants.
There is no organisation here. No international agency working to distribute aid to those who need it most. Small-scale charities and plucky individuals try valiantly to plug the gap left by an absence of official aid, their efforts uncoordinated and often inefficient.
Abandoned by the authorities, the people in the Jungle have developed their own community. Neighbourhoods have built up - we walk through the Kuwaiti district, meet the Iranians, and are invited to tea by the Eritreans. The smell of spices and cooking combines with the stench of the toilets. A minor argument breaks out about who is going to remove a mound of rotting food.
Wandering around the camp it’s easy to forget you’re in Europe - supermarket shopping bags and tins of baked beans sit among the piles of litter - but this is a world apart from that ‘civilisation’. The people living here have travelled thousands of miles and now just twenty remain before they reach the UK coast. No one we spoke to knew how they would conquer that final stretch.
But beneath the semblance of chaos are the beginnings of organisation - a shop selling Mars bars, a mobile phone charging point, even a disco with a glitter ball. A human chain forms to pass a van-load of supplies deep into the camp, and we meet a group of men using tree branches and donated sleeping bags to construct a shelter that will be home to today’s new arrivals. For some who arrive here, the ‘Jungle’ provides relative luxury after nights spent sleeping on the roadside. This could be home for months.
Faced with pictures like this, hundreds of well-meaning individuals across Yorkshire and the UK have raised money and donated supplies for the people living in the Calais camp. But their efforts to help the most needy are often undermined amid the scrum for supplies. We see pile after pile of donated clothes waiting to be burnt - summer clothes, children’s clothes, clothes for women who make up only a tiny minority of the camp’s population. Keen to help in whatever way they can, people donate unsuitable items, and unwittingly add to the waste that clogs up the camp.
We leave as dusk falls, walking past men marching intently towards the train lines. Tonight they will try to sneak into the Channel Tunnel, on trains or in trucks. For many it will not be the first time.
Some may get lucky, most will be unsuccessful, all will risk their lives. Their apparent desperation will be used by many as a reason to send more aid, more supplies. Donations can make life more comfortable in the camp, but they can’t provide what most people here desire - a passport to a ‘better life’ in the UK.
WATCH: ITV Calendar presenter Christine Talbot in the Calais Jungle.