Migrants Suffering From Gangrene, Scabies at Calais Camps

Gangrene, scabies, severe diarrhoea and breathing difficulties are affecting migrants, including children, who are camped out in squalid living conditions in Calais, according to charities working in the area.

Pregnant women and unaccompanied children are also becoming an increasingly common sight at the makeshift camp known as 'The Jungle' where many of the migrants live.

Leigh Daynes, Executive Director of the health charity Doctors of the World UK, which provides humanitarian support in Calais, has visited the camp several times so far this year. He told Newsweek of his "complete shock" at meeting a group of 10-year-old boys from Syria, living in a ditch and suffering from scabies— a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin. He says his colleagues have also come across cases of gangrene, breathing difficulties and severe cases of diarrhoea.

"It's absolutely diabolical," Daynes tells Newsweek. "I asked the Syrian boys I met to show me where they lived. It was raining, and we slipped down to the bottom of a muddy ditch, where they were living in a wooden shack held together with bits of tarpaulin, and inside were old blankets, and basic bedding. It was filthy. These boys were riddled with scabies," he says.

"Volunteer nurses are doing basic treatment, but it is difficult to keep clean in these conditions, and most of the people living there lack adequate access to water and nutritious food," he continues.

A volunteer doctor for the charity, Andy Young, who arrived in Calais this week, says he was shocked by the conditions he witnessed. "I was surprised at how unwell such a young group people are, and that they are subject to such extremely poor conditions," he says. He told Newsweek that the clinic has treated people suffering from pneumonia, skin conditions caused by malnourishment and people with long term medical conditions like HIV and tuberculosis. Young also says they've helped children who have suffered bruises and broken bones as a result of attempting to play in the camps that have no safe, designated play areas.

There are around 5,000 migrants at Calais, hoping to cross the Eurotunnel to reach the UK in search of a better life. Many are fleeing civil war in Syria, or unrest, instability and persecution in countries like Eritrea and Afghanistan.

Doctors of the World, the only medical charity working to offer healthcare to the migrants in Calais, says the area is on "the cusp of a major humanitarian crisis" and accuses EU governments of refusing to deal with the problem.

The charity deploys mobile clinics to provide medical consultations, counselling and psychological support services.The charity reports that it treats around 90 people a day although with only 20 staff, the majority of whom are volunteers, they are unable to help all the people who require care.

Daynes explains that chronic conditions like asthma and epilepsy are also going untreated, while many other people have injuries sustained from traffickers' weapons or even police batons, and others are suffering from psychological trauma due to the appalling journeys they have undergone in order to reach Calais. He describes conditions as a "mental pressure cooker."

"Part of the reason it is so shocking is that our governments are so paralysed," he continues. "The answer is a political one, in the hands of our elected leaders who need to get a grip."

Maya Konforti, a volunteer for the French humanitarian organisation L'Auberge des Migrants, says scabies has been a problem seen in the refugee population in Calais since last year. Furunculosis, large boils on the skin, is also fairly common, Konforti says, describing the condition as "very painful." She claims that the French government's day centre in Calais, the Jules Ferry Centre, has just one nurse.

She has also noticed more pregnant women and unaccompanied children at the camp. "Many children don't leave [their country] alone, but they arrive alone," she says. "Maybe their big brother got stopped by the police, or the mother died," she says, explaining that there are quite a few boys in the Jungle between the ages of nine to 12, without their mothers. Recently Konforti came across four Eritrean boys aged 14. "They stick together because each one has lost the person that accompanied them. But they still manage to keep a smile on their face," she says.