The camp has been housing anywhere from 6,000 (officials’ estimates) to 8,000 people (the estimates of charities).

The Calais camp, supported by charities and activist groups, has grown over the past year and a half; for months, the government looked away, hoping the crowding at the camp would abate on its own. At its peak, 100 people a day were arriving, with as many as 30 a day coming in recent weeks.

From countries like Afghanistan, Eritrea and Sudan, they had crossed vast distances — including, for many, a perilous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea — before making their way to this northern port city that overlooks the Strait of Dover, clinging to a hope that they might be able to leave for Britain by hitching a ride on one of the cargo trucks that use the Channel Tunnel, or even by walking through it. It was largely a false hope; only a few migrants made it through the tunnel, and several of them were arrested at the other end…

“The Jungle is no good,” said Abdullah Umar, 24, who is from the Darfur region and hoped to apply for asylum. “There are problems. Sometimes there’s fighting. And it’s cold.”