Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war-torn Africa and the Middle East in search of safety are finding a new kind of hell in Europe, where countries are cracking down on border crossings. But in the midst of the chaos, an underground network has emerged to help the refugees. “There are a lot of people helping. I think that in the Roya Valley, there are more than 150 refugees living people’s homes,” said Cedric Herrou, a farmer from a French-Italian border village. He’s helped organize a small network of underground smugglers to help the migrants pass into France.
The refugee crisis in Europe has reached unprecedented levels — over 65.6 million people worldwide have now been forcibly displaced from their homes. And that’s just counting those who reach their destination. In 2016, more refugees than ever were killed on the journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
To stem the flow of refugees, authorities are cracking down on border crossings. After walking hundreds of miles in search of safety, many are forced back to the first country where they entered in Europe. And that’s where most of them remain, apparently indefinitely, as they wait for their claims to be processed.
Even there, things are dire. Last October, the French government destroyed one of Europe’s largest and most notorious refugee camps, known as the Calais Jungle. It’s used as a jumping off point to enter the U.K., and the destruction displaced thousands of refugees, many of whom were unaccompanied minors. VICE News was in France when the government destroyed Calais Jungle. We followed hundreds of refugees attempting to cross the border into France, and met some of the people keeping the underground network alive.