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See France's refugee camps for yourself

Thousands have made their way to the northern tip of France to try to reach asylum in the UK. It's a life of frustration, boredom and danger.

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Stephen Shankland
Crude waterproofing
1 of 50 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Crude waterproofing

About 6,000 refugees live in the Jungle, a camp on the east side of Calais in northern France. It's their base for trying to smuggle themselves on a truck bound for the UK, where they often have family or friends. The UK also has a reputation for handling asylum claims faster than France.

Many Jungle refugees live in tents, but they can only keep the rain off for so long. Some refugees use plastic sheeting to keep their tents waterproof.

New razor wire
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New razor wire

Workers carry new razor wire to be installed on security fences to keep refugees off the highway. Refugees want to jump onto trucks that will be transported from Calais through the Eurotunnel to the UK.

Satellite view of the Jungle
3 of 50 Image courtesy DigitalGlobe ©2016

Satellite view of the Jungle

This satellite view shows the Jungle refugee camp on May 17, 2016. The grid of white structures in the center of the frame are a fenced, government-run site with metal shipping containers for housing. Surrounding it is a jumble of tents and plywood structures.

Until March, the Jungle spread south across the barren area on the bottom half of the photo, but the government swept the site clear to try to coax refugees into the metal containers. The English Channel is just out of the frame on the top edge of the photo.

Refugee Info Bus in Calais
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Refugee Info Bus in Calais

A volunteer-run effort called the Refugee Info Bus offers free Wi-Fi. The battered truck also shares information about refugee asylum rights and serves as a stage for musical performances.

Jungle tents
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Jungle tents

Hundreds of refugees at the Jungle live in camping tents, often donated. Other structures combine two-by-fours and tarps.

Plea for help
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Plea for help

Kamil Shamal, a 16-year-old refugee from Afghanistan now in France, wants to share a message: He's a Muslim, but he's no terrorist.

Eurotunnel entrance in France
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Eurotunnel entrance in France

These two bores, heavily guarded with police on foot and in vans, are where trains disappear underground into the "Chunnel" that connects France and the UK.

Iraqi refugee
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Iraqi refugee

Six-year-old Muhammad Rashed traveled with his sister and parents through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary on their way to a refugee camp in Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk, France.

Return to the Jungle
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Return to the Jungle

Sudanese refugee Adam Sharawi, who spent nine months traveling by car, boat and train across Africa to France, walks back to the Jungle camp after another night failing to get onto a truck bound for the UK. He doesn't want his face photographed in case that might jeopardize his chances of getting asylum in the UK.

Electric train dangers
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Electric train dangers

Signs reading "danger de mort" -- danger of death -- are mounted near the electric train lines that connect France and the UK.

Afghan boy and his phone
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Afghan boy and his phone

Kamil Shamal, a 16-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, holds his basic Samsung phone. He doesn't want his face photographed.

Clean government camp
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Clean government camp

Trash bins stand outside white shipping containers that house about 1,500 refugees in the Jungle. They're on a bed of gravel, another contrast to the chaotic parts of the Jungle nearby on sand dunes.

Grande-Synthe homes
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Grande-Synthe homes

The Grande-Synthe homes are sturdy plywood constructions with watertight roofs. They're elevated to avoid problems with rodents and drainage.

Jungle graffiti
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Jungle graffiti

Graffiti in the Jungle refugee camp reads: "Bring the love, stop the war. Merci," and "We just want to go in England please."

Mosque in the Jungle
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Mosque in the Jungle

A makeshift mosque stands on the outskirts of the Jungle. It's next to an area that previously was occupied by hundreds of tents cleared away by French authorities in March.

Anti-refugee razor wire
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Anti-refugee razor wire

Tight-mesh steel fences are sprouting up all around Calais, France, and the train lines that lead to the UK. The reason: keep the refugees out.

Walking through Calais
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Walking through Calais

A refugee treks from the Jungle refugee camp east of central Calais toward the center of the French city.

Iraqi refugee in France
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Iraqi refugee in France

Madena Rashed, a 2-year-old girl from Mosul, Iraq, lives in a plywood home with her parents and older brother. The shed was built by Doctors Without Borders at a camp in Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk, France.

Refugees sleeping on the road
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Refugees sleeping on the road

Nahro Rashed shows a photo of his two children, Muhammed and Madena Rashed, sleeping while homeless in Hungary after fleeing fundamentalist forces in Iraq. His wife, Gwan, holds Madena on her lap. Phones are useful for communicating, but they also record refugees' hardships.

French police
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French police

Journalists near highways and trains in Calais get a frosty reception from police posted to keep refugees from climbing onto trucks bound for the UK. They scrutinized our ID and press credentials as two other vans drove up as backup.

Grande-Synthe groceries
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Grande-Synthe groceries

Abdula Hamid, an Iraqi Kurd, stands next to his modest store in the Grande-Synthe refugee camp near Dunkirk in northern France. Cigarettes, repackaged into bundles of 10, cost 1.50 euros (about $1.68).

Dead rat in the Jungle
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Dead rat in the Jungle

Rats aren't unusual in the Jungle. There are dumpsters for trash and chemical toilets for sanitation, but there's also a lot of litter and food waste at the refugee camp.

French order
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French order

The government's shipping containers that serve as refugee shelters are like crude cousins to the modular housing like Unité d'Habitation promoted by the Swiss-French architect le Corbusier.

Mothers and daughters in Grande-Synthe
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Mothers and daughters in Grande-Synthe

The Jungle refugee camp has virtually no women, but the Grande-Synthe camp about 25 miles east has many families.

Grande-Synthe refugee juices up
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Grande-Synthe refugee juices up

The Jungle refugee camp has no electrical power, but Grande-Synthe accommodates those who need to charge their phones.

Government camp fencing
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Government camp fencing

The government camp is surrounded by high metal fences and a scummy drainage ditch filled with litter.

Injured refugee
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Injured refugee

This refugee, who didn't want his face photographed, said he was injured trying to jump onto a moving truck. There is a basic medical clinic at the Jungle, and more serious cases can be transferred to a Calais hospital. Bicycles are useful to get around the city, but they're rare and invariably battered.

Grande-Synthe refugee homes
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Grande-Synthe refugee homes

Grande-Synthe refugee homes are sandwiched between a highway and a railyard visible in the distance in this photo. It's also got fire hydrants, something missing from the Jungle camp near Calais 25 miles west.

Anti-refugee fencing
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Anti-refugee fencing

A truck drives past anti-refugee fencing on a Calais highway. The fence mesh is tight to deter wire cutters.

Jungle trash
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Jungle trash

There are a few trash containers around the Jungle, and they're filled beyond capacity.

Lone refugee
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Lone refugee

A single refugee walks across the empty sand next to the Jungle.

Space blanket camper
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Space blanket camper

A few camping trailers dot the Jungle. This one has a reflective space blanket taped over its biggest window.

Khyber Darbar restaurant in the Jungle
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Khyber Darbar restaurant in the Jungle

The Khyber Darbar restaurant in the Jungle offers full meals for 3 euros a plate. It's decorated with mirrored space blankets and other items available free from aid agencies.

Khyber Darbar store in the Jungle
34 of 50 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Khyber Darbar store in the Jungle

Commerce survives in the Jungle, though it doesn't exactly thrive. Many refugees who can't afford to buy food rely on free meals from aid agencies, but several stores offer snacks and drinks. A bicycle repair shop stands near one of the Jungle's entrances.

Bike repair in the Jungle
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Bike repair in the Jungle

Bicycles in the Jungle make trips into Calais faster, but they're in bad shape. One shop does its best to keep them running.

Propane and phone charging
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Propane and phone charging

Friends and customers can charge their phones at this store, one of the few with electrical power, thanks to a gas-powered generator. In front of the table are propane tanks used for a stove for cooking naan bread.

Refugee Info Bus antenna
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Refugee Info Bus antenna

A volunteer-run effort called the Refugee Info Bus offers free Wi-Fi. This antenna connects to a French mobile network and beams Wi-Fi to about 400 refugees a day.

Jungle Christian church
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Jungle Christian church

One of the more elaborate constructions in the Jungle is this two-story Christian church.

Bulldozed Jungle
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Bulldozed Jungle

French authorities swept the southern half the Jungle clear in March in an effort to move refugees into government-supplied housing at the camp. Now only weeds and a water tap remain. About 2,500 refugees were displaced, but there was only room for 1,500 refugees, aid agency Medecins Sans Frontiers says.

Statue of Liberty graffiti
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Statue of Liberty graffiti

Graffiti on one Jungle shack quotes the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the US Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Vulpes vulpes kurdistanica
41 of 50 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Vulpes vulpes kurdistanica

The Kurdistan red fox -- Vulpes vulpes kurdistanica -- is painted with a cat on the side of one home in the Grande-Synthe refugee camp in northern France.

Calais fence
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Calais fence

This tall security fence is designed to keep refugees from the area where cars and trucks drive onto trains bound from France to the UK.

Hand scanning at the Jungle's government camp
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Hand scanning at the Jungle's government camp

The Jungle's government camp is safer than the chaotic jumble of tents, but refugees must scan their hands electronically for admittance. That's a problem: refugees work hard to avoid giving their fingerprints until they reach the country in which they hope to claim asylum.

Jungle dunes
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Jungle dunes

Tents and shacks are built atop litter-strewn dunes in the Jungle just a few hundred feet from the English Channel.

Refugee housing pride
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Refugee housing pride

Mylar space blankets of silver and gold along with star-pattern fleece blankets adorn an unusually elaborate shack at the Jungle refugee camp in northern France.

Ethiopian territory
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Ethiopian territory

The Jungle is loosely divided by nationality. This shack shows its residents' roots in Ethiopia's region of Oromia.

Grande-Synthe Kurdistan barbershop
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Grande-Synthe Kurdistan barbershop

A Kurdistani barbershop in the Grande-Synthe refugee camp is painted with a toothy panda bear and bamboo.

Refugees in France
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Phone data transfer

Mohammed Ali, 31, a refugee from Iraq, transfers data from an old phone into a newer iPhone at the Grande-Synthe camp near Dunkirk, France.

​Edulumino's Dunkirk Children's Center
49 of 50 Stephen Shankland/CNET

​Edulumino's Dunkirk Children's Center

The Dunkirk Children's Center, run by a non-profit group called Edulumino, offers a place for kids to learn and stay at the Grande-Synthe refugee camp in northern France. Director Rory Fox says about 100 kids attend the school, but turnover is high as families pay to be smuggled to the UK.

Grande-Synthe refugee camp
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Grande-Synthe refugee camp

CNET reporter Rich Trenholm stands atop a berm overlooking the Grande-Synthe refugee camp near Dunkirk, France.

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