After my last article from the front lines of Europe, I decided it was time to return to France. My destination? The Jungle, a refugee camp in Calais. Once home to over 5,000 migrants, this is the place where refugees wait around to see if they can get into the UK.

Arriving in Calais by train, I got off and made my way through the station heading toward the exit. Just as I stepped outside, I was greeted by four migrants asking for a smoke. So of course I said, “Sorry bro, I’m all out.” Heading down the road to my hotel, I could see more walking in groups with sleeping bags on their backs. I checked into the hotel and headed up to my room. Looking out the window at the train station, I could see the migrants that tried to bum a smoke off me still standing around.

The thing I wanted to do first was to get around the town itself before heading to The Jungle. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, but still I could see quite a few groups kicking around. Some were migrants, others were locals, and the rest were travelers like me, taking pictures of the beautiful buildings in the centre of Calais. It would soon be dark, and after a trip to Pizza Hut, I had every intention of hitting the hay for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, I’d hit The Jungle!

When I awoke in the morning, the first thing I focused on was getting coffee—necessary in order for me to function. I spoke with the girl serving the coffee. Her English was not so good, but she understood what I said when I asked, “So how is the refugee situation here?” She replied in broken English, “It’s bad, of course. There are too many [refugees], and more arrive every day. But soon we hope they will move on. For now, there are too many.” I was already getting the feeling this town was a bit overrun.

I headed to the taxi rank and told my driver to drop me at the refugee camp located on the outskirts of Calais, about five kilometers from the city centre. As we approached the camp, I could see black smoke in the distance. I put the window down and the smell rushed in. The taxi driver looked at me with a bit of anger on his face. “Sorry bro,” I muttered as we pulled up before the camp entrance. I paid the driver and walked into the jungle unsure of how people here would take to me poking around with a camera. But hey, it’s got to be done, right?

I walked under the motorway bridge. To my right, a long line of police vans. To my left, a dusty field straight in front of a row of riot police. Some migrants sat across from them, looking at the officers with angry expressions on their faces. The smell was very strong at this point. The one thing that hit me the most was how big this camp was. I had been in refugee camps before, but nothing to this scale.

There was a bank on my right where I saw a photographer. I made my way toward him, and he soon spotted me, too. We got to chatting. He said he’d been here a few days and had come to know the area well. He gave me the rundown of the place, telling me about his experiences thus far. The bit of advice he gave me that stuck was, “Just be alert: You need to be on your toes around here and pay attention.” With that in mind, I set off to the northern part of the camp. Most of it had been destroyed. Police were working on demolition, tearing unsafe buildings down.

The amount of litter in this place was unreal. I was walking through the camp, taking it all in, shuffling through the trash, when I heard, “Hello my friend.” A young man stood in front of me. “Hello,” I returned. We got to talking and enjoyed a smoke together. This lad was from Afghanistan’s Helmand province. He was 16 years old when he left his home country, and he walked almost all the way. His journey had taken him into Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Germany, and finally, France. His destination was the UK.