A closer look at Calais

A closer look at Calais

Thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have converged on Calais over the past year, hoping to find a way of getting across the Channel to Britain.

Base camp

Despite extra security and the bulldozing of almost half of their camp, dozens of migrants still make the eight kilometre (5 mile) walk each night to try and penetrate the fencing around the Eurotunnel terminal and climb illegally onto trains or lorries heading to Britain.


The area has turned from empty sand dunes into a sprawling refugee camp the size of a small town in under a year.

Summer 2015

July 29, 2015

Small clusters of tents and structures can be seen forming alongside the road to the east.

The area of open sand is relatively empty other than a few larger structures, possibly from NGOs.


Tents also begin to form around the main thoroughfare that crosses the area.

Tents also begin to form around the main thoroughfare that crosses the area.

Less than three months later

Oct. 11, 2015

A large number of new structures are apparent after a significant increase in refugees. At this stage, almost all of the structures in the camp are makeshift.

Major expansion is also evident along what has now become the main thoroughfare in the southern part of the camp, with shops, cafes, toilets and a church present.


Early this year

Jan. 20, 2016

The camp continues to expand. Many of the tents and temporary structures have been removed or relocated to make way for more solid infrastructure.

A large section of white converted shipping containers are now visible. They house as many as 1,500 refugees.

Some areas appear to be cleared after previously housing clusters of tents. Some leveling of ground is present in the southwest corner.


Spring 2016

Mar. 15, 2016

Drastic change is evident following the French government’s decision to start clearing the southern section of the camp. Some refugees shifted to the north, contributing to further expansion there.

Large swathes of land in the south have been cleared. A strip of land along the western and southern edge of the camp has also been completely flattened.


Two months later

May 17, 2016

Slight expansion of structures. Official figures show an increase of 400 people in the camp since the end of March.

Major landscape change is evident with the rest of the southern area now completely flattened.


Satellite images: DigitalGlobe
Sources: DigitalGlobe; Reuters
By Simon Scarr and Christian Inton | REUTERS GRAPHICS