October 24th, 2016

Leamington volunteers evacuate Calais’ ‘Jungle’ camp

Updated: 10:38 am, Mar 02, 2016

CLASHES between riot police and migrants in Calais’ notorious ‘Jungle’ camp led to the emergency evacuation of two Leamington volunteers.

Nurse Lianne Kirkman and midwife Anna Leeksma spent a day volunteering in Dunkirk before heading to Calais, where they heard how the demolition of makeshift shelters in the camp by French authorities had quickly erupted into violence.

When they set up their first aid tent in the ‘Jungle’ on Tuesday morning all was quiet with migrants peacefully protesting by sitting on their caravans as police patrolled the area.

But within hours their small team was ordered to leave as nearby tents were set on fire and police once again clashed with those living in the camp – mostly migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa looking to reach Britain.

Mum-of-two Lianne Kirkman said: “When we first got there everything was very quiet and peaceful. We only had to treat people for minor ailments.

“But then we believe police started setting tents on fire and the atmosphere changed and became more volatile.

“We had to leave for safety as one of the volunteers the previous evening had been pushed and sustained concussion and another suffered an eye injury from tear gas.”

Around 1,000 of the migrants in the southern side of the camp have been told they must move to nearby converted shipping containers or claim asylum in France.

But many are refusing to leave saying they want to be close to the port as they attempt to get to Britain.

Lianne – who also runs local homeless charity Helping Hands – said: “We have seen lots of people moving through the camp with their belongings, which are minimal, it’s really sad. Some told us they had been kicked out of their tents late the previous night and had nowhere to sleep.

“All of the migrants we met were very friendly to us and grateful for our help. They were chatting to us about their dreams to move to the UK.”

After evacuating the camp the team returned to Dunkirk where they say the atmosphere is more settled.

They were set to return home on Wednesday night after several days volunteering in camps at the two French ports.