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In 2015 over a million migrants entered Europe by land and sea. The volume of these migrations was so greatly exacerbated by the war in Syria, that it has been labelled both a refugee crisis and a migrant crisis.

According to the Migration Policy Centre, a migrant crisis implies that these people are in search of economic opportunities. But if we refer to a refugee crisis we are discussing people seeking international protection.

This means that there are over a million people who are potentially seeking refuge in Europe. Reports of the appalling conditions in the ‘New Jungle’ camp in Calais have revealed a multitude of health implications for the 6000+ inhabitants.

The psychological Impact of migration

The immediate problems of accommodating migrants and refugees often eclipses the issues they have already been through. But it is important to consider the psychological impact of their dire situation.

Exhaustion and added distress from their arduous and sometimes perilous journeys from Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo etc. can also negatively impact the health of migrants by weakening their immune systems.

Some immigrants and refugees have escaped terrifying, life-threatening situations, which puts them at high risk of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Environmental Factors

The University of Birmingham has found that particles in the air are a risk  factor  for respiratory  infections,  lung  cancer  and cardiovascular disease. The pollutants from using gases and plastics in fires for cooking are also a serious health risk.

The New Jungle used to be a landfill site, and a Channel 4 investigation has also found that the inhabitants of the camp could be at risk of asbestos exposure. The fibres in asbestos can become airborne when it is damaged, causing diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.

According to OCS Environmental Services, a survey of a site would normally determine whether asbestos removal and disposal is necessary. This should have been carried out before this camp was set up.  However, it is clear that no such precautions were taken to ensure the site was inhabitable in this instance. 

The medical Implications

For refugees and migrants in this camp, one of the main risks is the spreading of disease and infection. While the French State accommodates up to 200 women and children in a converted holiday camp, there is no more room, so there are thousands of people living in one of the largest and worst slums in Europe.

With this many people living in such close proximity, there is a very obvious risk to their health and safety. Tents are plagued by rats, water sources are reportedly contaminated by faeces and inhabitants are suffering from tuberculosis and scabies.

Those most vulnerable to illness are the elderly and young children, many of whom have been ill with vomiting and diarrhoea. According to Doctors of the World at least 20 people have died since June.

Whose responsibility is this issue? 

Many have been quick to blame the French government, with NGOs calling for immediate action over “serious human rights violations”.The french court responded by ordering the country’s authorities to improve conditions.

As well as an obligatory clean-up, the court ordered more sanitation stations and the installation of waste collection sites. Even with these necessary improvements to the conditions, there is still only so much the French Government can do.

The fact is, more aid is needed and more useful donations are required. The only charity working on the ground in Calais are Doctors of the World, who are providing medical care to migrants and refugees across Europe. It is clear that responsibility is shared, and that more can be done. But whether or not health and safety hazards can be resolved any time soon remains to be seen.


Calais ‘Jungle’ Camp Poses Health Risks to Migrants and Refugees
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