A clash between migrants and police in Calais, France, Nov. 25, 2015, where a mix of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from Darfur, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Eritrea live in the shantytown known as the Òjungle."
A clash between migrants and police in Calais, France, Nov. 25, 2015, where a mix of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from Darfur, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Eritrea live in the shantytown known as the "jungle."Jerome Sessini—Magnum Photos
A clash between migrants and police in Calais, France, Nov. 25, 2015, where a mix of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from Darfur, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Eritrea live in the shantytown known as the Òjungle."
French authorities have begun to clean up the ÒJungleÓ of Calais, the shantytown near Calais city, where migrants live before they attempt to enter the United Kingdom, Jan. 20, 2016.
The tents that make the shantytown known as the ÒjungleÓ of Calais, France, where a mix of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from Darfur, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Eritrea live before they attempt to enter the United Kingdom by stowing away on ferries, cars, or trains traveling through the Port of Calais or the Eurotunnel, Nov. 26, 2015.
Clashes between migrants from the "jungle" in Calais, France and police have increased in frequency, Nov. 25. 2015.
New arrivals at the entrance to the "jungle", Nov. 25, 2015, Calais, France.  The migrants who come to Calais hope to eventually make their way to the United Kingdom.
A group of neighbors wear tee-shirts proclaiming  "Angry Calaisiens," while protesting the migrant camp known as the "jungle," Sept. 11, 2015.
Activists support migrants during a demonstration in Calais, France, Sept. 17, 2015.
Men sit at an Afghan restaurant in the "jungle", Calais, France, Nov. 25, 2015.
Migrants from the "jungle" in Calais, France, Sept. 17, 2015
A fence at the shantytown known as the "jungle" in Calais, France where migrants take shelter before attempting to make their way to the United Kingdom, Sept. 17, 2015, Calais, France.
Syrian migrants who have been living in the "jungle", the shantytown near Calais city, France. They hope to climb the fence in order to cross illegally to the Untied Kingdom, Sept. 17, 2015.
A grid of portraits of Syrian refugees who have recently arrived in Calais, France, 2015.
Anti-riot police (CRS) during a tense face-off with a group of migrants. As it has become harder for migrants to cross to the United Kingdom, confrontations with police have become more frequent, Nov. 25, 2015, Calais, France.
Anti-riot police stand on alert in Calais, France, where confrontations with migrants have become a frequent occurrence, Dec. 7, 2015.
A dwelling for migrants in the "jungle" in Calais, France, Jan. 20, 2016.
A grid showing various make-shift dwellings for migrants in the shantytown known as the "jungle" in Calais, France, where 4000 migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have sought shelter before attempting to make their way to the United Kingdom, 2015.
The refugee camp near Dunkirk, Grande-Synthe, which is accommodating over 2,500 refugees mostly families from Kurdistan, January 20, 2016
Details of personal belongings and trash frozen in the ice in the "jungle" in Calais, France, where a  mix of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from Darfur, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Eritrea have come to live in the hopes of eventually making their way to the United Kingdom, Jan. 2015.
FRANCE. Grande-Synthe. January 20, 2016.Details of frozen blanquets.
The makeshift church for the Ethiopian and Eritrean community is known as St. Michael's Calais in the "jungle" of Calais, France, Nov. 27, 2015.
Orthodox Christians pray outside the makeshift church known as St. Michael's Calais  for the Ethiopian and Eritrean community in the "jungle" of Calais, France, Nov. 24, 2015.
Trash collects on trees in the "jungle" of Calais, France, Jan. 20, 2016.
Clothes hang to dry on the fence of the Calais, France shantytown, known as the "jungle," Nov. 24, 2015.
Facilities, including showers and mobile phone rechargers, are available to migrants during the day at the Jules Ferry Center in Calais, France, Nov. 25, 2015.
New containers for migrants are now being built that will take the place of tent dwellings in Calais, France, Jan.19, 2016.
A boy wears a spider man jacket at the refugee camp in Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk, France, which is accommodating over 2,500 refugees mostly families from Kurdistan, Jan. 19, 2016.
A group of workers from a private company have been hired to clean the trash left by the migrants in Grande-Synthe, the refugee camp near Dunkirk, which is accommodating over 2,500 refugees mostly families from Kurdistan, Jan.20, 2016.
New construction  for migrants has begun in Calais, France intended to take the place of the "jungle" tent dwellings, Jan. 19, 2016.
A bulldozer protected by riot police has begun carving a path towards the "jungle" camp in Calais, France after authorities told the migrants to move into new housing so the tent camp can be destroyed. French authorities want to create a 100-meter buffer zone between the Calais camp and the bordering motorway to protect thousands of trucks from migrant attacks, as the refugees try to board the trucks headed to the United Kingdom, Jan. 20, 2016.
A young man looks out in an area in Calais, France that is being cleared for new housing containers, Jan. 20, 2016.
A clash between migrants and police in Calais, France, Nov. 25, 2015, where a mix of refugees, asylum seekers and econom
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Jerome Sessini—Magnum Photos
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The Many Lives of the Calais 'Jungle' Refugee Camp

During the 14th century, after King Edward III of England annexed France’s northernmost region, Calais was known as the “brightest jewel in the English crown.” Today, the town’s reputation is a very different one, as it continues to sit at the center of Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II.

Since 1999, when the Red Cross opened a refugee center in Sangatte, south of Calais, the area has become the rendezvous point for thousands of economic migrants and refugees looking to enter the U.K. The center quickly became overcrowded, forcing an increasing number of people to set up camp in the adjacent woods — and thus the “jungle” was born. In the last 15 years, the jungle has taken different forms and has had various lives. In 2002, Nicolas Sarkozy, then France’s interior minister, even had it bulldozed to the ground. But the migrants kept on coming back.

Read next: Calais Migrant Camp ‘the Jungle’ Set to Be Destroyed

Last year, as hundreds of thousands refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have made their way north, the jungle has grown: it went from 1,500 residents to more than 6,000 last fall, before dropping to 4,000 more recently. Now, the French government has moved to close down the jungle. The process, which is expected to take up to three weeks, will involve about 1,500 people being moved to a newly built container town, with many others forced to move north to Dunkirk or even to Belgium.

Magnum photographer Jerome Sessini was in Calais a few weeks ago, documenting the paradoxical relationship the town has developed with the migrants. “While they can’t really be seen in town, there’s still some sort of tension because the name Calais has become synonymous with this issue,” he tells TIME. “The city has been stigmatized. Tourists, especially British ones, don’t visit anymore.”

Still, apart from a few outliers, Sessini feels that the locals don’t hold ill feelings toward the migrants. Instead, they are fed up with a government that keeps on displacing the problem without ever addressing it head-on. “The government tried to move the migrants to different cities around France, but they want to go to the U.K., so they always come back,” says Sessini. “If we really want to deal with the jungle, there’s no other option than to open the border. But, that’s never going to happen.”

Already, another “jungle” has sprung up in Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk. There, the living conditions are said to be even worse.

Jerome Sessini is a photographer represented by Magnum Photos.

Alice Gabriner, who edited this photo essay, is TIME's International Photo Editor.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ olivierclaurent

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