By: Sally Hayden
Date: October 24th 2016
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
CALAIS, France (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Deep in the Calais "Jungle" migrant camp in northern France, hundreds of Oromo Ethiopians set up their own school.
An Irish volunteer came to teach classes during the day, but at other times groups of Oromo men, and a few women, gathered to discuss the news from Ethiopia: this month's announcement of a state of emergency, or the rising death toll in protests.
On the sides of makeshift wooden shelters they painted the crossed arms protest symbol of the Oromo struggle, publicized by Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa at the summer Olympics.
"Feyisa never give up," was written on one wall, and "Stop killing Oromo students" was scrawled on another.
People from Oromiya, a region at the heart of Ethiopia's industrialization efforts, accuse the state of seizing their land and offering tiny compensation, before selling it on to companies, often foreign investors, at inflated prices.
"When we went to demonstrations they killed many people, they arrested many people, they put in jail many people. So we had to escape from the country," said Solan, a 26-year-old from Addis Ababa.
The former science student left Ethiopia in 2014 after his family was forcibly evicted from the land they had lived on for generations, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Now Solan and hundreds of his fellow Oromo in the Jungle face eviction once again.
On Monday, French authorities began clearing the sprawling, ramshackle camp outside the port town of Calais, in preparation for the demolition of the shanty-town that has become a symbol of Europe's struggle to respond to an influx of migrants fleeing war and poverty.
Hundreds of migrants carrying suitcases lined up outside a hangar to be resettled in reception centers across France.
But most migrants in the camp have made their way to Calais because they want to reach Britain, and make regular attempts to sneak aboard trucks or trains bound for the UK.
Groups like the Oromo say they have a particular reason for doing so. They are worried France won't grant them asylum because it doesn't recognize them as persecuted, based on the experience of others who have been rejected.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said everyone in the Calais camp would be offered the chance to be transferred to a reception center where they could apply for asylum.
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