Demolition of Calais ‘Jungle’ camp under way

Boarding busses in Calais
Boarding busses in Calais

The dismantling of the “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais has began as its inhabitants leave by bus for other parts of France.

A group of workers started to demolish unoccupied tents and shacks by hand, according to reporters at the scene.

About 2,000 migrants left voluntarily on Monday, and hundreds more have followed in the days following.

The Jungle has become a key symbol of Europe’s migration crisis, housing some 7,000 residents in squalid conditions.

calais-migrant-camp-the-jungleThe operation to close the camp has been largely peaceful, but concerns remain that some migrants will refuse to give up their attempts to cross the Channel to the UK.

The French authorities said they were prioritizing departures on Tuesday morning, but crews in hard hats and orange jumpsuits started demolition shortly after 1500 local time.
Crews began to pull down wooden frames and tarpaulins
Crews began to pull down wooden frames and tarpaulins

They tore down wooden shacks with sledgehammers and used diggers to move away debris.

The demolition is expected to be done mostly by hand – and in a low-key manner – as officials believe sending in bulldozers at this point would send the wrong message to migrants they want to convince to get on buses voluntarily.

The Calais police commissioner says the camp will be fully cleared by Friday and that only about 200 people are expected to try to stay.

There are warnings that those determined to stay will set up camp in the surrounding countryside while the demolition takes place before returning to the area.

Children are the only group allowed to stay in Calais. They will be housed in the camp’s converted shipping containers while the rest of the Jungle is dismantled.

Almost 200 children from the camp have been brought to the UK, some of them under the “Dubs” amendment to the Immigration Act, according to UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

The amendment allows particularly vulnerable children – such as girls and those under 13 – refuge in the UK, even if they do not have family already in the country.

Dismantling the Jungle

At times the migrants have jostled with police as they wait to board buses.
At times the migrants have jostled with police as they wait to board buses.

than 1,200 police were deployed for the clearance operation.

The French interior ministry said officers “might be forced to intervene” if there was unrest during the demolition.

In a statement (in French), French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 2,318 migrants had been “given shelter” on Monday.

A total of 1,918 adults had been taken away on 45 buses to 80 reception centers, while 400 minors were transferred to “provisional reception centers” within the camp.

The first day had taken place in a “calm and controlled manner”, he said.

Once the migrants have been transferred to different parts of France, they will be given the opportunity to claim asylum, or face deportation.

where-asylum-applications-have-been-made-in-2016Last year more than one million migrants – many fleeing the civil war in Syria – arrived in Europe. Countries struggled to cope and division arose in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people.

An EU-Turkey pact to try to stop migrants crossing to Greece and moves by Balkan nations to close their borders have driven down the number of people using the so-called eastern Mediterranean route.

However, migrants from African countries such as Eritrea and Somalia as well as West African nations such as Nigeria and the Gambia are continuing to attempt the crossing from Libya to Italy.

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