• France's news in English
Migrants at Calais camp given dignity in death
Photo: AFP

Migrants at Calais camp given dignity in death

AFP · 23 May 2016, 09:44

Published: 23 May 2016 09:44 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
More than 30 people have perished since June last year in and around the vast, infamous camp known as the "Jungle" in northern French port of Calais, near the Channel Tunnel.
The latest was a Pakistani man, only 24, hit by a car on the ring road around Calais on May 9th.
Others  have been struck by a train, drowned or electrocuted, some in horrific circumstances, dragged along tracks after a desperate, failed bid  to stow away on cross-Channel transport.
To spare them a nameless, forgotten fate, rights workers and medical personnel act as go-betweens to put the police, hospital or funeral home in contact with family or other migrants who came to know the victim.
"Often, police send me photographs, when they're fit to be seen, which I print out. They help me find people in the 'Jungle' who knew the victim to make a positive identification and prepare the rest," said Lou, a full-time psychologist with the medical charity Medecins du Monde who gave only her first name.
As for regular citizens, "autopsies are systematically performed to dispel any doubt about the cause of death," said Stephane Chochois, who heads the forensic medicine unit at a Calais hospital.
Identifying people in illegal flight can take months but the bodies are patiently kept in the morgue. The volunteers follow every clue -- checking with travel companions, any documents or cell phone chips. Often, Chochois said, victims have several chips, typically hidden in their socks. If none of that works, they take finger prints and DNA samples.
Sometimes the clue comes from 'Jungle' residents themselves, worried about someone who suddenly disappeared. They come, telling us "we lost one of our friends," said psychologist Lou.
Yet restoring dignity can be a challenge, said Chochois citing one case where a migrant's body parts were spread "along 20 metres (yards)" last summer "after the person was dragged along by a  train".
'A wooden cross and a name' 
Psychological support is lacking, Lou told AFP, as in a case "in October when a 26-year-old Syrian man died after being struck by a car in front of his nine-year-old son".
Nearly 5,000 people are massed in the 'Jungle', some months on end as they try to reach Britain and, they think, jobs, according to French and British charities. The government says the figure is vastly inflated, but tension remains high as police regularly jostle with migrants desperate to cross the Channel.
"There's lots that needs to be done," said Lou. "In the Eurotunnel, for example, the agents have support. But the migrants, they have nothing."
"To repatriate a body is not always easy when they come from thousands of kilometres away and we don't speak the language or know the customs," she said.
And each case is different "depending on the embassy". Some pay part of the repatriation, which can vary widely -- from 3,000 to 6,000 euros ($3,300 to $6,700) -  as do the often complex procedures.
If the family has been contacted, and both wants and can pay for the victim's return, all goes smoothly. Sometimes the person's community chips in to offer a decent burial.
Story continues below…
If not, the migrant is buried in the town where they die -- and the town cannot refuse.
A sad testament lies in a cemetery north of Calais where several graves stand out from the others in the Muslim section, small wooden markers bearing only a name and the years of birth and death.
For some migrants, even that was not known, said Lou pointing to a barren area of paupers' graves farther off.
"Whether it be at the border or in the shanty town, no one dies by chance in Calais," she said sadly.
By David Courbet
Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Is Marks & Spencer to close Champs-Elysées store?
Photo: AFP

Is it goodbye to crumpets, jam, and English biscuits?

After Calais, France faces growing migrant crisis in Paris
Photo: AFP

While all the focus has been on the closure of the Jungle in Calais, France must deal with the thousands of migrants sleeping rough in Paris. And their numbers are growing.

Restaurant boss suspected of kidnapping Cannes millionaire
The Nice residence of the president of Cannes' Grand Hotel, Jacqueline Veyrac. Photo: AFP

A restaurant owner 'harbouring a grudge', apparently.

Le Thought du Jour
Vive le pont - The best thing about French public holidays
Photo: AFP

The UK might have guaranteed public holidays, but France has "les ponts".

What's on in France: Top things to do in November
Don't miss the chocolate fashion show in Lyon. Photo: Salon du chocolat

The autumn is in full swing in France, and there's plenty to do.

What Paris 'squalor pit' Gare du Nord will look like in future
All photos: Wilmotte et Assoicés

IN PICTURES: The universally accepted 'squalor pit of Europe' is finally getting a facelift.

Halloween: The ten spookiest spots in Paris
Is there really a ghost on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower? Photo: AFP

Read at your own peril.

Halloween holiday in France: Traffic nightmares and sun!
Photo: AFP

But it's great news for the country's beleaguered tourism industry.

French MPs vote to make Airbnb 'professionals' pay tax
Photo: AFP

Do you make a lot of money through Airbnb in France? You'll have to pay a share to the taxman in future.

France and Britain accused of abandoning Calais minors
Photo: AFP

Scores of young migrants are forced to sleep rough for a second night.

Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
How speaking French can really mess up your English
The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
jobs available