France starts clearing ‘jungle’ migrant camp in Calais
AP PhotoFrance began clearing the sprawling “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais on Oct. 24, with hundreds carrying suitcases queuing outside a hangar to be resettled in reception centers across the country.
The first buses departed less than an hour after immigration workers started the operation and officials predicted some 2,500 would leave on the first day, Reuters reported.
“Bye Bye, Jungle!” a group of migrants shouted, according to AFP.
Armed police fanned out around the warehouse and across the squalid shanty-town after a night during which small groups of migrants burned toilet blocks and hurled stones at security forces in protest at the plans to dismantle the camp.
The Socialist government says it is closing the camp, home to 6,500 migrants fleeing war and poverty, on humanitarian grounds. It plans to relocate them to 450 centers across France.
“We don’t know yet where we are going, but it will obviously be better than the Jungle, which was made for animals not humans,” said Wahid, a 23-year-old Afghan, AFP reported.
“I hope this works out. I’m alone and I just have to study,” Amadou Diallo from the West African nation of Guinea told Reuters. “It doesn’t matter where I end up, I don’t really care.”
French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said that authorities had not needed to use force and that the large police presence at the camp on Oct. 24 was just for security.
Many of the migrants and refugees hail from countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea and had wanted had reach Britain, which bars most of them on the basis of EU rules requiring them to seek asylum in the first European country they set foot in.
But even as the process began, the fate of about 1,300 unaccompanied child migrants remained uncertain.
Discussions are underway with British authorities over who should take in children with no family ties in Britain, the interior ministry spokesman said, adding that 200 had left for Britain last week.
The migrants are being separated into families, adults, unaccompanied minors and vulnerable individuals, including elderly people and single women.
They are then be bussed to the reception centers where they will receive medical checks and, if they have not already done so, decide whether to apply for asylum.
The government expects the evacuation will take at least a week.
“It’s going well. We knew this morning that there would be a lot of people, and that’s what’s happening,” regional Prefect Fabienne Buccio.
“There was no pushing, the minors arrived. We had a particular concern for the minors, paid them particular attention, but it went well,” she added.