Faces of Calais: Migrant Life in France

Introduction by Katherine A. Peinhardt

Photos by Phil Le Gal

July 27 and 28 saw the growing migrant crisis in Calais, France, escalate when thousands of migrants entered the high-traffic Channel Tunnel in an effort to reach the United Kingdom. One Sudanese migrant was killed in an accident, making him the ninth person to die in an attempted tunnel crossing since June. Between 3,000 and 5,000 migrants, largely from East Africa and the Middle East, live in resource-scarce camps in Calais, often lacking proper shelter and medical services. Many seek to reach the U.K. by stowing away on U.K.-bound trucks and ferries at great risk. 

Phil Le Gal’s "New Continent" initiative, a photo project and documentary series, brings the experience of migration in the Schengen Area to light, showing the day-to-day realities of migrant life in areas throughout Europe.  In a recent trip to Calais, Le Gal documented life in the “New Jungle,” one of the city’s largest camps. A portion of the photos are presented here. For more on New Continent and Mr. Le Gal’s work, please see the project page.


Musa, from Darfur, arrived three weeks ago in the Calais Jungle. He has been wearing the amulet around his neck since he left Africa. He hopes it will protect him when trying to get inside the U.K.-bound lorries.


Saeed, from Baghdad, left his country because of the war. 


Awel is from Eritrea. He is only 12 and has been living in the Calais Jungle for many weeks.


Ahmed and Ikbal are two friends from Afghanistan who met en route to the U.K. They have arrived in Calais and they say there are looking after each other. They are posing in front of a makeshift shop in Calais' Jungle.


Adis, from Ethiopia, is 15 and a Christian. A makeshift church has been built in Calais' Jungle for the Christians of the camp.


 Seminar is from Ethiopia. 



Phil Le Gal is a French photographer based in London, specializing in photo documentary, reportage and portraiture. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.

Katherine A. Peinhardt is a research assistant at World Policy Institute.

[Photos courtesy of Phil Le Gal]

Note: Some of the names have been changed to protect the identities of the migrants.

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