Angelique Chrisafis has spoken to a Sudanese refugee who has spent three months living rough in Calais but now hopes to claim asylum in France and start a new life in the country.
Yusef, 35, a pharmacist who had fled violence in Sudan, was dragging a donated suitcase of blankets to join hundreds queuing in the cold to be bussed to reception centres across France. Once inside the French hangar, he would be shown a map of France, given a choice of two places and put on a bus.
“I have no idea where I’ll go. I will close my eyes and put my finger on the map,’ he said. But he was optimistic. “I want to integrate, start a new life, contribute. I trust France to keep me safe. People misunderstand us. We don’t have economic problems, we’re fleeing violence and dictatorship.”
Yusef wanted to apply for asylum in France and start learning French straight away. “All I know about France is that they make good perfume and that Paris is called the city of love. Now I’m beginning a journey of love.”
He said three months living in the Calais camp had been “tough and miserable”. He added: “Now we’ve got to start feeling hope.”
Once he had thought he would make it to England. “But that dream died here,” he said. “That bridge is closed.”