Burhan 26 years old Irani Kurd immigrants on the way back to tents amongst the rubble of a derelict warehouse on the outskirts of Dunkirk.

press to zoom

Irani and Iraqi Kurd immigrants taking shelter in tents amongst the rubble of a derelict warehouse on the outskirts of Dunkirk as they try to reach Britain, On the way, a volunteers from a Belgium NGO's, giving some food and helping the group of migrants three times a month. They also have a mobile kitchen and a barbershop.

press to zoom
aa-the-last-frontur-france-020_orig
aa-the-last-frontur-france-020_orig

press to zoom

Burhan 26 years old Irani Kurd immigrants on the way back to tents amongst the rubble of a derelict warehouse on the outskirts of Dunkirk.

press to zoom
1/20

THE LAST FRONTIER

When a very dear friend of mine, Amie Barouh, an artist and filmmaker, introduced me to a Kurdish-Iranian migrant name Burhan, she met him in Paris. She interviewed him and his friend, and my interest grew to meet Burhan, especially when I knew we spoke the same language. 

 

We decided to take our equipment to follow him to Dunkerque, Northern France, while I photographed and Amie video documented his story. 

On the 16th of Nov 2019, during cold winter days, we arrived; Burhan was waiting to welcome us in the early hours of a cold morning. He took us to the new place where he and some of his friends lived and told us you would be surprised. We did not know what we were going to see.

On the way, we saw volunteers from a Belgium NGO's, giving some food and helping a group of migrants three times a month, and it happened that day they were there. They also have a mobile kitchen and a barbershop, I met someone them, and I asked directly, "why are you doing this kind of aid?" He replies: "In the beginning, we started by giving clothes, tents, and sleeping bags, then we decided to bring mobile kitchen and barbershop services." 

 

The French authorities shut down the Calais camps in 2016, dispersing large numbers of people who since then have taken shelter in the area nearby the coast, around Dunkerque, in a cold, dirty, and unsafe warehouse complex living in really harsh conditions. 

 

In Dunkerque, The French Gendarmerie comes every week, displaces migrants, and destroys their tents to disperse them. The French Gendarmeries also take their belongings, personal items, telephones, clothes, and sometimes their papers, then they put people in prison for a few days and then released them. This is a part of their daily operation - aimed to stop people from clearing the area permanently.

So the NGO'S volunteers bring the same aid to build new shelters for those displaced migrants so they can handle the cold and not get sick. One of the activists said, "We do this because we want to make them feel there are people who care about them and make them feel as if they were in their homes. We do not help them to be illegal, but their situation is very miserable. "

 

We walked around and found an old and destroyed factory where most Kurds lived. As if I was entering a Kurdish city or in the frontline, where most of the migrants from Iran, Syria, and Iraq were. Some families gathered between 600 and 700 people, and their living conditions were devastating. All of them slept among the rubble, litter everywhere, urine smell, cold winds, lack of decent human needs, and lots of dead bodies of animals and mice almost around, not to mention the freezing temperatures.

 

In the afternoon, migrants usually gather in a place called the smuggler's meeting, where they go there to eat, buy cigarettes, charge their phones and electronic lights and also discuss issues concerning them like Smuggling people to get across the English Channel.

The French government and the United Kingdom government are restricting migrants' movements by truck, they are an inconsistent attempt to cross by boat, which is very dangerous, yet they try and face death.

 

After the dismantling of the "Jungle" refugee camp in Kaya, near Calais, the number of immigrant residents in Dunkerque's center has doubled, most of the population are from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, or Vietnam, and there are a lot of Kurds from Iraq. 

 

Burhan was determined to reach Britain.

 

Burhan, 26 years old, escaped from Iran in 2015, as he was one of the Kurdish opponents of the Iranian government, working with the Iranian Kurdish Democratic Party in a discreet organization. When they discovered about them, he was the first to be on the blocklist of people wanted for execution. 

 

One day Burhan was in the process of meeting a member of the party; on the second day, the Iranian intelligence issued an order to kill him as he had been accused of treason, but they got confused between Burhan and his older brother and shot his brother instead of him in his house, therefore he had to flee illegally to reach Denmark by sea.

 

Burhan applied for asylum to get residency in Denmark and stayed in Copenhagen for 3 to 4 years, but his asylum application was rejected twice. Again, he had to leave for another country, and at that time, he got no choice but to move toward France.

Britain was Burhan's final destination, as he wished to join friends and family there.

 

As a typical scenario of smugglers' fraud, one of the Kurdish smugglers promised to smuggle him to the UK, took all his money, and disappeared after collecting a lot of money from other Kurdish migrants.

 

He was depressed, and his mental health was deteriorating, but he kept some optimism and hope that was always present in his eyes.

Also, he felt he was not alone in this. He made friends from the same city who shared everything.

 

Amie and I, on our way back to Paris, sat in a cafe and started talking to the shop owner and some other people there, and it turned out that one of them was from security. They wear civilian clothes at the weekend.

 

He started talking with us, and at some point, some of them saw our gears and understood we were journalists, then decided to end the conversation. 

 

But he mentioned earlier, "The policemen always go with the French gendarmerie every week to Dunkerque to remove tents and arrest the migrants. We asked him why they use violence against migrants? He replied, "unfortunately, we are constantly working with Gendarmerie, we always in conflict with them because of their aggressiveness in dealing with migrants, especially families, indeed we disapprove their methods, but also we don't have the authority to stop this violence, but you know, they all receive money from Europe.

 

A week after we left the camp, we kept in contact with Burhan. His updates were: he climbed one of the ships heading to Britain, and before he arrived, the ship was held in the sea for two days; he was trapped, but he and his friends were hiding in the boat.

 

Burhan sent us a personal photo and shared his location on google maps. A few days after, the ship arrived safely at the port, and they surrendered to the British police.

 

By now, he is in the camp،. Amie went to Uk and visited him. He is in bad condition and mentally unstable. His asylum application again, his situation is unknown, especially with the recent events of the Covid-19 pandemic.