World / 23 September 2016, 10:32am / ARTHUR MARTIN
London - Young British women working as volunteers in the squalid Jungle camp in Calais are allegedly having sex with the migrants they are supposed to be helping.
Some aid workers slept with ‘multiple partners in one day’ and then continued on ‘in the same vein the following day’, according to a volunteer.
One British woman was described as having a ‘very bad reputation in the Jungle’ after numerous liaisons with African and Asian migrants.
Others have allegedly forged sexual relationships with teenage boys under the age of consent.
Charity bosses say predatory behaviour among volunteers is a ‘serious problem’ and have implemented a ‘zero tolerance policy’ on relationships with migrants. But they admit it is difficult to enforce because the Jungle - which has a population of 10 000 - is not recognised as an official refugee camp.
Hundreds of British students and graduates travel to Calais to hand out food and clothes, and to help migrants apply for asylum in the UK.
Many team up with organisations which offer no training and are not even registered charities. Some young women, and men, simply turn up in the Jungle on their own.
A male volunteer highlighted the issue on a Facebook page for Jungle workers called Calais People to People Solidarity, which has more than 36 000 members.
He wrote: ‘I have heard of boys, believed to be under the age of consent, having sex with volunteers. I have heard of volunteers having sex with multiple partners in one day, only to carry on in the same vein the following day. And I know that I’m only hearing a small part of a wider scale of abuse.’
The volunteer said that the majority of cases in question involved liaisons between female volunteers and male migrants.
‘Female volunteers having sex enforces the view, that many have, that volunteers are here for sex,’ he wrote. ‘This impression objectifies women in the camp and increases the risks.’
These sexual encounters are damaging for migrants who are ‘in an entirely unequal position of power’ and ‘entirely dependent on the aid provided by volunteers’, he said.
Maya Konforti, who works for Auberge des Migrants - an established charity at the camp - told how a British woman had built up a ‘bad reputation’ in the camp by sleeping with many men. ‘If she had been volunteering with Auberge she would be thrown out, but she did it on her own, she was here independently,’ she said.
‘She found the right refugee and now she’s with him back in the UK. That’s what I hear.’
Auberge des Migrants has a strict code of conduct that explicitly condemns ‘potentially exploitative’ sexual relationships between volunteers and migrants. But Konforti said the rules are impossible to enforce because the Jungle is not an official refugee camp.
‘When you have volunteers and refugees in this environment, it’s going to happen,’ she said. ‘There will be people who will have sexual relationships. The problem is the independent volunteers.’
Claims also resurfaced on Thursday about the existence of a brothel in the Jungle, allegedly used by male volunteers.
Clare Mosely, founder of Care4Calais, one of the biggest charities working there, said a male volunteer was recently reported for inappropriate behaviour with women refugees.
She said: ‘He initially worked with Auberge des Migrants. But when he was reported they told him to leave. He then came here for a day and they phoned us up and warned us. So we told him to leave, but then he went to the camp on his own and we had no power to force him out.
‘Luckily a couple of our male volunteers persuaded him to leave. But it’s extremely difficult for us to control. A fifth of the volunteers are here independent of any organisation.’
‘It isn’t recognised as an official refugee camp, it’s an illegal settlement. So we’ve got no way of forcing anyone to leave.’
Care4Calais also has a strict code of conduct banning any ‘pattern of potentially exploitative sexual activity’ between workers and migrants.