HUFFINGTON POST
09/29/2015 05:47 pm ET

The Refugee And Migrant Crisis In Calais Never Really Stopped

While the media's focus has shifted, a dire humanitarian situation remains.
Migrants and refugees are still camped in Calais, and some have died trying to reach the U.K.
Philippe Huguen/Getty Images
Migrants and refugees are still camped in Calais, and some have died trying to reach the U.K.

The death of an unnamed 20-year-old Iraqi man at the border tunnel between France and Britain is the latest tragedy in a long-standing refugee and migrant crisis at the French port of Calais. 

The young man's crushed body was found in the back of a heavy goods truck on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported, making him the 12th person to die trying to make the crossing into the U.K. this year. 

The thousands of people in makeshift encampments near Calais, as well as their attempts to find refuge in Britain, were a prominent focus of media attention and political debate over the summer, though that interest has since dwindled. At the crisis' height, there were over a thousand incursion attempts each night from migrants and refugees trying to make it through the Channel Tunnel into Britain in search of better conditions or asylum.

The "New Jungle" camp has about 4,000 refugees and migrants.
Michel Spingler/Associated Press
The "New Jungle" camp has about 4,000 refugees and migrants.

After routine confrontations between security forces and people trying to breach the tunnel -- which led to arrests and tear gassings -- France and Britain increased security measures and border controls in late August. As the number of incursions dropped afterward, the spotlight also shifted to the larger migration of people moving through eastern Europe toward destination countries such as Germany.

But while the focus on Calais as one facet of the larger refugee and migrant crisis in Europe has somewhat waned in recent months since the drop in incursions, a dire humanitarian situation remains.

French police have cracked down on encampments and driven out their residents.
Thibault Camus/Associated Press
French police have cracked down on encampments and driven out their residents.

Last week the body of a teen believed to be from either Eritrea or Sudan was found at the Euroterminal train tracks near Calais. A freight carrying trucks had struck and killed him.

A week before that, a Syrian refugee was electrocuted to death on top of a train at the tunnel entrance.

Earlier this month, French police also began cracking down on the tent camps that migrants and refugees have built in the area surrounding Calais. Police used tear gas to drive out residents of several encampments, bulldozing and tearing down the structures afterward. Hundreds of refugees and migrants were left without shelter as a result.

Authorities told AFP that they plan to leave in place the major "New Jungle" camp where an estimated 4,000 people currently reside, but will knock down any other encampments.

Inside that camp there is a lack of access to many basic humanitarian needs, including food, security and sanitation. A number of volunteer groups have tried to fill the gaps in aid and services in the camps. Some locals have also gotten involved in volunteering their time, including acting as teachers in a makeshift school in the camp.

The artist Banksy announced this week that his theme park art exhibit Dismaland would be torn down and its materials used for housing in the camp.

The French government also announced plans to build a refugee camp in Calais that would house 1,500 people this winter, according to Reuters. However, Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart said the 5 million euros France allocated for the development was vastly insufficient for the crisis. 

Many migrants and refugees want to leave the horrible conditions in the "New Jungle" and other camps to make it to Britain.
Philippe Huguen/Getty Images
Many migrants and refugees want to leave the horrible conditions in the "New Jungle" and other camps to make it to Britain.

France and Britain have been working together to stop the attempted crossings through the Eurotunnel. France cleared the area around the entrances and erected huge fences at the start of September, as well as bolstered the amount of security in Calais with help from British border protection forces. 

Despite these security measures -- as well as increasingly harsh U.K. laws on undocumented immigration -- push factors that include conflict, poverty and oppression continue to drive people to try to complete their dangerous journey across the channel. Some of these attempts end up being fatal.

The head of migrant policing in Calais, Pascal Aerts, told the BBC last month that attempts at crossings would continue because increased security isn't a cure-all for the refugee and migrant crisis.

"The solution is not in Calais, the solution must be political. The solution will lie in international agreement," Aerts said.

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