Europe

Calais migrants get a lukewarm welcome in Normandy

Afghan migrant Nawab Mangale, newly arrived in Saint-Germain-sur-Ay, tells the BBC he is happy to have a bedroom instead of a tent
Image caption Afghan migrant Nawab Mangale, newly arrived in Saint-Germain-sur-Ay, is happy to have a bedroom instead of a tent

Thousands of migrants from Calais are being moved to temporary refugee centres across France as crews start dismantling the camp which has become known as the Jungle. Over 600 are expected in Normandy, where settling down is proving to be a challenge.

At the Miramar hotel in Saint-Germain-sur-Ay, the new arrivals are sure of one thing: it's better than Calais.

"We were living in tents in the Jungle, here we each have a bedroom," says Nawab Mangale, a 36-year-old from Afghanistan. "The place is in good condition, we have food and everything we need."

Mr Mangale is one of 45 migrants from Afghanistan who have been sent to an ad hoc refugee centre in Normandy as the clearance of the Calais Jungle gets under way. For a couple of months, the migrants will receive food, water, medical attention and accommodation. Most say they have given up on trying to reach the UK.

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And yet, Mr Mangale admits Western comforts have not brought happiness. "It's 50-50, some people are sad, others happy.

"We were told we were going to a big city, not a little village. We'd be better off in a city where we can meet people, learn French," he says.

Looking around Saint-Germain-sur-Ay, it's clear what Mr Mangale and his friends mean. In this little coastal resort in Normandy, half the houses are left empty. The two local restaurants have already closed for the winter. There's only one shop, and nowhere to buy cigarettes.

"At least there aren't any fights," says 25-year-old Wahid, who is more upbeat. "There were always fights in the Jungle. The people are good, they say welcome."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Jungle migrant camp is being dismantled, and its occupants sent to temporary centres all over France

Occasionally a couple of locals smile and wave as they pass the Miramar hotel. One neighbour invited a couple of migrants into his home and offered them some snacks.

But overall the welcome in Saint-Germain-sur-Ay is tepid. Corinne Chassaing, who runs the shop, does not feel safe. Already she complains she had to shoo out a couple of migrants who were loitering in her shop.

"I feel threatened," says Mrs Chassaing, "there's nobody supervising these migrants. The local police do rounds but they are not here permanently. There's almost nobody around at this time of the year."

"I'm worried that they'll cause trouble," echoes Mrs Lenoel. "We have started organising rounds with some of the neighbours to check the houses. We're concerned about burglaries."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Some migrants are being given French lessons to help them integrate when they leave the Jungle

The charity running the Miramar hotel says the migrants will be kept busy with activities, and crucially will receive French lessons that will help them to integrate.

And for the migrants, Saint-Germain-sur-Ay should be a short stop, a step towards applying for asylum in France.

It's not clear how many will persevere despite the isolation. The migrants admit, sotto voce, that some are already thinking of leaving. Maybe towards a bigger town. Or perhaps back to Calais.

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Media caption"The UK speaks of human rights. This is human rights?" - Sahel Ehsanullah

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