Canadian student raped in Calais migrant camp

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A Canadian journalism student was raped in an isolated forest in northern France while reporting on illegal immigrants trying to enter Britain, say officials.

29 August 2008

CALAIS -- A Canadian journalism student was raped in an isolated forest in northern France while reporting on a makeshift camp housing illegal immigrants trying to get to Britain, officials said Thursday.

The woman - whose identity was not disclosed - went Tuesday evening to the forest nicknamed "The Jungle" to carry out a photo reportage, said the local prosecutor's office in the port city of Calais.

"There she was the victim of a rape perpetrated by an individual who is now being sought," it said in a statement.

"The Jungle," which lies close to the ferry terminal in Calais, is home to hundreds of illegal immigrants looking for an opportunity to cross the English Channel into Britain and is also frequented by human traffickers.

It is dotted with shelters made out of plastic sheets and camp-fires built by the migrants.

It was in one of these makeshift tents, which are frequently demolished by police, that the woman was raped, a source close to the inquiry said. The source added that "at this point there is no certitude that (the rapist) is a migrant."

Sources close to the enquiry said 150 illegals - mostly from the Middle East - were detained by police on Wednesday and questioned, while a victims' support unit has given help to the woman, who is believed to be 31 years old.

An official in the Canadian embassy in Paris said it was aware of the case, and confirmed that the woman was Canadian. The British consulate in the northern city of Lille said the woman attended a London journalism school.

Monique Delannoy, from the Belle Etoile aid group which provides meals to the migrants, told AFP: "I always advise journalists not to visit the squats, and I even discourage people working for us from going there."

"Because of the summer holidays, there is no one from any aid groups on site after 6 pm," she said.

Delannoy said that in mid-August, her charity had counted 450 migrants in and around the forest, all but 30 of them men. She said they were Afghans, Kurds, Iranians and Africans.

Calais became a destination for migrants in the late 1990s with the opening of the Sangatte refugee camp, right next to the entrance to the Channel Tunnel linking France and Britain.

The camp was finally closed in 2002 but migrants still come to Calais in their attempts to get to Britain.

[AFP / Expatica]

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