Calais migrants hold Sunday church service in makeshift camp

Christian migrants sing and pray at a service in a makeshift church in their camp in Calais.

CALAIS, FRANCE (AUGUST 2, 2015) (REUTERS) – Ethiopian and Eritrean migrants prayed during a service on Sunday (August 2) in a makeshift church in their camp in Calais.

The camp, known as “The Jungle”, is home to some 3,000 men, women and young children, hoping to one day cross the Channel and reach Britain in search of a better life.

The northern French port has become one of the frontlines in Europe’s wider migrant crisis alongside Italian and Greek islands used as an entry point for those crossing the Mediterranean from Africa or the Middle East.

Freight and passenger traffic through the rail tunnel have been severely disrupted in past weeks, as migrants desperate to enter Britain have stepped up attempts to board trucks and trains travelling from France.

On Sunday, around 50 men, women and young children took part in the church service, praying and singing together before breaking bread afterwards.

Mima, a 29-year-old from Ethiopia, was one of two men leading the ceremony.

He said Sunday was the one moment in the week when they could rest, with praying helping people temporarily forget their current situation.

“It’s like deep in my heart. Like, even I forgot, I’m not a migrant when I pray here. You know, I just feel like I’m in the house, you know,” he said.

Mima studied I.T. and journalism, and said he one day hopes to return to Ethiopia to work as a journalist. He was one of hundreds cramped on what he described as a plastic boat from Libya to Italy. He was rescued off the coast, saying he only survived because he is a strong swimmer. Several of his friends didn’t make it.

“We say thank you Jesus, because he make, he save our lives. We are not dead. But other people, our friends, they are dead. Also we are praying the ones that have passed away, our friends, now they are not with us, because they are dead on the trip,” he said.

The church in the camp took two months to build, and was constructed with the aid of Christian associations.

The Ethiopian and Eritrean migrants said they would rest on Sunday and would not try to cross the Channel.

Migrants have long gathered in Calais to try to get into Britain. But Eurotunnel, the firm that runs freight and passenger shuttles via the Channel Tunnel, says numbers have swelled to around 5,000 people from about 600 and that it is struggling to cope.

The firm said migrants have also become better organised, mounting nightly attempts in large groups to storm the facilities.