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CALAIS, France — At the vast, squalid camp known as “The Jungle,” the Paris terrorist attacks have only added to the troubles facing refugees and migrants.
“We escaped the war,” says Ahmed, a 29-year old who came to France from Syria. “The war followed us to here.”
"Terrorism doesn't have a nationality. It doesn't have a religion"
The mechanical engineer fled his country fearing he would be forced to fight for dictator Bashar Assad's army.
Like more than 6,000 others, Ahmed's long journey through Europe ended in the makeshift camp in the port city of Calais. Britain is just 30 miles away across the English Channel, linked by the Eurotunnel — a passageway for high-speed trains carrying cars, trucks and people between the two countries.
The Damascus native says he wanted to cry after hearing about Friday’s atrocities in Paris. “I don't want to kill anybody and I don’t want to be killed,” he added.
Investigators found a Syrian passport at the scene of the suicide bombing outside the 81,000-seat Stade de France. Officials confirmed that terrorist arrived in Greece aboard a boat carrying migrants on Oct. 3.
Alexandra Limousin, an aid worker with L’Auberge des Migrants, says there is nothing to suggest any of the attackers passed through Calais, but that hasn't stopped her worrying about a backlash from the public.
“We are just hoping that they won’t focus on Calais and say, ‘oh, this is because of the migrants,’” she says.
Baraa, a 31-year old Syrian refugee has been in "The Jungle" for 10 days. He is trying to link up with an uncle living in the U.K.
Pulling heavily on a Marlboro red cigarette, the former English teacher recounts an arduous 11-month journey from his hometown of Hama to France, passing through eight European countries to escape the fighting between Syrian government forces and the armed opposition.
Speaking about the Paris attack, he says: “We know how hard it is to lose a person, we lived it ourselves.”
It is not only Syrians who have come to Calais to escape violence. The camp is also a stopover for Iraqis, Afghans, Sudanese and Eritreans all seeking safety from war and political oppression at home.
Conditions are dismal. As the winter cold sets in, a hard wind blows through flimsy camping tents and tarpaulin shelters used by migrants, scattering garbage across the muddy pathways.
Tensions are already high. Earlier this month, police fired tear gas and water cannons at migrants who had reportedly thrown stones at security forces and tried to block the main road to the tunnel.
Baraa says the public should not confuse Syrians trying to escape the war at home with the ISIS terrorists who attacked Paris.
“Terrorism doesn't have a nationality," he says. “It doesn't have a religion.”