The migrant camp near the northern French town of Calais used to be a temporary spot for asylum seekers as they made their way into the United Kingdom.
However, the camp that is notoriously nicknamed the “Jungle” because of its vicinity to a real forest has grown into a small town over the course of last few months. What used to be a slum-like hotchpotch of tents and small huts has become a rather proper encampment since the summer, as hundreds of thousands enter Europe from war-zones in Syria and the Middle East.
The Calais camp has become a symbol of Europe’s inability to deal with the influx of people flooding into the region. Aid workers claimed there are about 4,500 people stranded in the muddy patch of land they have come to call home.
Over the course of the past eight months, more than a dozen shops have popped up into the labyrinth of makeshift homes, along with libraries, restaurants, small hotels, a dome-shaped theater and most importantly, an information center offering advice on how to get asylum in the U.K.
While the theater doubles up as a nightclub and an art gallery, the camp also contains mosques and churches — including a wooden Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox church. There is also a children’s playground, complete with wooden climbing frames.
Although thousands have come to accept Calais Jungle as their home, they only plan to stay there temporarily — as soon as the night falls, the migrants and refugees try to cross the barbed fences to smuggle themselves into Europe.
“No one wants to stay in the Jungle,” said a migrant living in the camp. “But most people here have set their heart on reaching the U.K. ... The security measures won’t change that.”