The grim lives of the migrants cornered in Calais

By Mediapart & Images En Bibliothèques

Tensions were running high this week in the French Channel port of Calais, which since the late 1990s has become a major gathering site for migrants, essentially from Africa and central Asia, hoping to cross illegally to Britain by any available means. Riot police fired tear gas grenades during clashes with migrants who tried to storm trucks bound for Britain, and intervened to deal with fighting between armed rival migrant groups. Meanwhile, an Ethiopian woman was killed as she tried to cross a motorway beside the port, the third migrant to die on nearby roads in as many weeks. On Friday, far-right Front National party leader Marine Le Pen seized on the situation to make a high-profile visit to the port on Friday, when police struggled to keep her supporters and opponents apart. The grim reality of the daily lives of the migrants, so often ignored amid political rhetoric and cross-Channel arguments about how to improve the port’s security, is portrayed in an acclaimed and compelling documentary by French filmmaker Sylvain George, which Mediapart presents here in its entirety.

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Sylvain George spent three years shooting his documentary Qu'ils reposent en révolte (Let Them Lie in Revolt), beginning in 2007. It follows different migrants in their daily and miserable routine of seeking food, shelter and medical assistance, and above all a clandestine passage across (or in the tunnel under) the 35 kilometres of sea that separate France from Britain.