Aid worker weeps for 'jungle' camp teenager

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The Independent Online

There were tears and anger today as Afghan immigrants were forcefully evicted from their makeshift camp near Calais today.

Many of them were refugees determined to make their way to Britain to claim asylum and be reunited with family members who had already fled the war-torn country.

But, according to protesters and aid workers, they were dragged from tents in the jungle by French police to be processed and sent back to their country of entry to Europe.

The camp was home to hundreds of mainly Afghan asylum seekers, some of them just children.

Fifteen-year-old Sail Pardes, from eastern Afghanistan, had been at the camp for six months and was hoping to make his way to England.

He said conditions were tough and he and his fellow immigrants were forced to live on basic rations such as pasta.

"It is difficult here. It's cold at night and it is very hard. I am here with friends - my friends are my family.

"It's been too hard. A lot of the time we are hungry and we don't sleep much."

He added: "Most of the time we're tired. The most important thing is to get to England. I want to go to school and become a better person."

Another immigrant Adam Khan, 25, a former chauffeur from southern Afghanistan, said all he wanted to do was reach the UK.

He said: "I've been here one month and I am trying and trying to go to England. The situation is bad in Afghanistan but I have relatives in England."

Ali, a frightened Afghan boy, was torn from the arms of a weeping aid worke. Sylvie Copyans cried as she told how his treatment had only added to the trauma he had experienced in his home country.

The aid worker, from the group Salam, had tried to protect the 15-year-old from what she claimed had been a heavy-handed police response.

She said: "He comes here and there is no change. I tried to hide him, he was very, very frightened."

Ali had been at the camp for two months.

Madame Copyans grew close to the teenager after he was attacked in Calais by a group of Kurds.

He had refused to go to hospital unless she went with him.

She condemned the riot officers' response as "disproportionate and sickening".

Mme Copyans said the police force was "unnecessary" given that only around 100 people remained in the camp when they shut it down this morning.

Many had already moved on in the last few days. Some were also seen leaving the camp in the early hours of the morning.

"It was sickening and a completely disproportionate reaction on the part of the police. There were so many children in there."

Richard Ashworth, Conservative MEP for South East England, said: "The decision of the French immigration ministry to finally close the makeshift camps around Calais has been long overdue.

"I would like to applaud the French police for what seems to be a humane and orderly closure of the Calais Jungle this morning.

"The testimonies of some of the migrants today have alluded to what we already knew - that the camp had become a focal point for illegal trafficking.

"What is glaringly obvious here is that all EU governments are not fulfilling their obligations to halt the entry of illegal immigrants on Europe's southern borders and it is now incumbent on the French government to deal with illegal immigration at the point of entry into France and not simply funnel them through creating this sorry bottleneck along the Pas de Calais and Normandy coasts.

"Until this happens, it seems unlikely that this situation will ever be resolved properly."