The Eastern Daily Press investigations editor has told of how he was mugged by the man he had just interviewed while filming at the “Calais Jungle” camp.
Tom Bristow had spoken with 21-year-old Hussain, from Pakistan, at the refugee and migrant camp in France as part of a piece showing what it is like for Norfolk truck drivers to pass through Calais.
Bristow had been dropped off at the camp, which is close to the ferry port crossing the English Channel, while the driver he was shadowing made his delivery before returning to England.
“As soon as you get there you are really on alert because there’s so much security everywhere,” he told Press Gazette.
“The morning I was there I saw about five or six police vans. There is about 200 metres or so of no man’s land and behind that are sand dunes and then the camp itself.
“I didn’t feel threatened or endangered. There’s certainly a tense atmosphere, but not an aggressive one.”
Bristow, who has worked for EDP publishers Archant since 2011, said he spoke with Hussain who told him how he had been trying to get on board lorries bound for England.
It was when he was outside of the camp that the 30-year-old was attacked.
“I was walking towards the road to video lorries, when I heard a shout of ‘no video’ behind me,” said Bristow, who made the visit on 6 October.
“I looked around and Hussain was standing next to me with a wiry young man. I told them I was not videoing them and showed them my phone so they could see they weren’t in any footage.
“The wiry man then grabbed my phone and tried to pull it from my hands.
“I kept hold of it and we wrestled for control. I could see Hussain shaping up for a punch which I couldn’t avoid. His fist thumped into the side of my head above my left ear.
“A second hit to my head followed and we all fell to the sandy ground.
“The man wrestling me for the phone was on top of me, while Hussain punched me in the face. I looked up and saw his white teeth and mouth open over my arm, about to bite.
“At that moment I let go of the phone and they ran off into the camp.”
Bristow said French police, who witnessed the attack, came to his aid but waited until the pair left the camp again before making an arrest.
He suffered cuts to his face and told Press Gazette that while the men were found with three mobile phones on them, neither belonged to him.
“The only frustration from a journalist’s point of view is that you have lost all your pictures and videos – but that isn’t a huge deal,” he said.
Bristow is not the first journalist to have been attacked at the Calais Jungle.
Russia Today journalist Rob Edwards was held at knifepoint by a gang in the camp on a visit in January.
“They had little knives with small blades,” he told Russia Today.
“They also had a handkerchief, a napkin, which they tried to put into my mouth to stop me shouting. “They began cutting my sleeve and asking for my camera.”
He said nothing had been taken from him and later tweeted: “Young people in the Calais Jungle have been abandoned, human rights trampled. I’m not surprised such attacks happen with such desperation.”
Dutch documentary filmmaker Maaike Engels was filming with her colleague Teun Voeten when he was attacked and pushed into a tent by the three young men as they attempted to steal his camera, the Daily Mail reported earlier this year.