On the day the UK left the EU (31 January 2020) I travelled from Dover to Calais by ferry to see what Brexit looked like from across the Channel. After interviewing Britons travelling across the Dover Strait and French people in Calais, I made contact with migrants’ charity and visited their base in Sangatte and saw that they were preparing to make a distribution of supplies at the main migrant site – the “Jungle” – on an industrial estate near the port. I followed them to the site where migrants trying to get to the UK were living in tents – a final staging post on their journey from Africa and the Middle East before they attempted to cross the Channel. As the volunteers distributed supplies, I interviewed the migrants about Brexit, their living conditions in Calais and their reasons for trying to reach the UK. They explained that on in the early hours, police had raided the camp and taken away their tents. In the following months, migration across the English Channel became one of the major stories of 2020, with hundreds of migrants crossing the sea in small boats. Accessing the migrant sites, which are less structured now that the main Jungle camp has been pulled down, is particularly challenging. “Brexit morning in Calais” was an attempt to explore this major issue and to understand the views of migrants on why so many have been trying to reach the UK.
The story explained to a national British audience the conditions migrants in Calais were living in and why they were wanting to get across the Channel at a time when the UK’s relationship with Europe was changing. We changed our online analytics system last year, which means I don’t have audience figures prior to June 2020, but since then, the story has been viewed more than 6,600 times. It would have been a lot higher than this at the time. It’s Facebook reach at time of publication was 8,688 (accounts which saw it), with 489 engagements (comments/reactions). The story was also shared on Facebook by migrants’ groups, and reached people on Twitter and other sites including Flipboard.