Syrian refugees protest in France seeking to go to Britain
About 60 Syrian refugees, of whom 40 are on a hunger strike, have occupied a key point in the northern French port of Calais and vowed to stay put until they are sent to Britain.
On the second day of the protest and hunger strike on Thursday, the asylum seekers put up slogans scribbled on cardboard proclaiming: "Take us to the UK", and "We want to talk to David Cameron".
They occupied a footbridge of a ferry terminal at Calais port from which ships leave for British ports.
Many voiced disenchantment with France, which recently pledged to speed up asylum requests for Syrian refugees.
Most of them arrived a month ago in Calais.
"We thought that France was the country where human rights are respected," said Tarik, a 19-year-old from the southern city of Deraa near the border with Jordan.
"But we live outside like dogs, hunted down by the police, we see we are not welcome, how can we seek asylum here?" he said.
The former engineering student said he was convinced he would find "more humanity" in Britain and eventually bring over his mother and younger brothers currently living in Egypt.
Ali, a 38-year-old, can barely hide his anger, saying although French President Francois Hollande had taken a strong stand against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons, the French were not welcoming at all.
"Why does the president say one thing and the police another?" Ali said, adding that he had spent $13,000 (9,500 euros) to come to a country where the "president said 'we must help Syrians'".
"Here even animals are better treated than us," he said.
Zakarya, a 45-year-old from Aleppo said: "Our choice... is to go to England because the procedure for Syrians is easier than in France or other countries."
"We will stay as long we can stand," she said.
The UN refugee agency has said 17 countries, including France, have agreed to receive quotas of refugees fleeing the bloody conflict in Syria.
They have offered to take in a total of 10,000 people in all. That is a tiny amount compared to the 2.1 million Syrian refugees housed in neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
© 2013 AFP