Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An illegal migrant wades through thorny bushes to reach his squalid hut in a jungle on the fringes of Calais, France. Photo by Anuj Chopra

Émigrés' Europe Dreams In Chains

By Anuj Chopra

CALAIS, FRANCE -- As darkness begins descending on the French port of Calais, Naseer Ahmad, 17, sidles out of his hovel hidden amid thorny bushes in a jungle and heads towards the mouth of Le tunnel sous la Manche, the rail tunnel beneath the English Channel that connects France and England. Ahmad makes his way along roads and across fields, crosses high fences and razor wire and sneaks past floodlights and police patrols. When he gets to the tracks, he tries to jump aboard freight or passenger trains headed down the tunnel. The lanky young Afghan has been trying to smuggle himself into England in this manner for over a year. “Life in England is a dream,” he says. “After coming so far, I won’t give up.” Ahmad arrived in Calais a year ago after a perilous 5,630-kilometre journey from southern Afghanistan’s war-torn Helmand province. He covered the distance partly on foot and partly hidden in cargo containers or in rickety boats. He was guided all along by fly-by-night agents who helped migrants such as himself to evade arrest and smuggled them to foreign shores in return for a hefty fee. ...

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