October 24, 2016
Men and women carrying suitcases and personal possessions have begun leaving the soon-to-be-demolished refugee camp known as “The Jungle” in the northern French port city of Calais.
France’s government said the relocation operation is “humanitarian” and will allow the closing of the country’s largest shanty town.
The evacuation of possibly 8,000 migrants living in squalid conditions in the makeshift refugee camp is expected to take about a week.
Earlier, some refugees clashed with police and threw stones at security forces as a form of protest at the plan to demolish the camp.
“I hope this works out. I’m alone and I just have to study,” Amadou Diallo of the West African nation of Guinea, said. “It doesn’t matter where I end up, I don’t really care.”
Placement in other camps
The migrants will be offered placements in refugee centers across France and an opportunity to seek asylum. But there is concern that some migrants will refuse to go because they still want to get to Britain, across the English Channel from Calais.
Britain has already begun accepting some of the estimated 1,300 unaccompanied children living in the camp, which sprang up 18 months ago in the sand dunes.
“We have conducted 600 interviews in all, and this week 194 minors will have left Calais for Britain,” said Pierre Henry, the head of France Terre d’Asile (FTDA), a charity involved in helping process the children on behalf of the French government.
Britain to accept children
While it is unclear how many children London will accept, the British Home Office said on Sunday that the first group of 70 children, with no pre-existing connection to Britain, arrived in the country.
It is up to the British to decide whether they are indeed minors, what their family ties are and if they should be transferred under an EU law known as the Dublin Regulation for asylum seekers enabling reunification with relatives.
Meanwhile, tensions were rising at the camp. French officials were handing out thousands of leaflets in several languages urging the migrants to abandon their dreams of reaching Britain and informing them to show up at a hangar near the camp early Monday with their luggage.
From there the migrants – mostly Afghan, Sudanese, Ethiopian and Eritrean men – will be taken by bus to temporary shelters, where they can seek asylum.
Some 145 buses will be deployed over the course of the three-day move.
The French interior ministry said it “does not want to use force, but if there are migrants who refuse to leave, or NGOs who cause trouble, the police might be forced to intervene.”
The demolition of the “Jungle” aims to close a difficult chapter in Europe’s migrant crisis.
The camp has strained relations between France and Britain and caused tensions with locals in Calais.