Demolition crews to tear down controversial Calais camp
Migrants lugging their meager belongings yesterday boarded buses taking them from the Calais “Jungle” under a French plan to raze the notorious camp that has become a symbol of Europe’s refugee crisis.
“Bye bye Jungle!” a group of migrants shouted as they hauled luggage through the muddy lanes of the shantytown where thousands from Africa and the Middle East had holed up, desperate to sneak into Britain.
Around 1 200 police officers –some in riot gear – were on hand as scores of Sudanese and Eritrean men queued from dawn outside a hangar to be among the first to be put on coaches for shelters 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,” a23-year-old Afghan said.
The first coachload carrying 50Sudanese left at about 8.45amheading for the Burgundy region. By midday, several hundred people were queueing and 16buses were already on the road.
As the crowd swelled, police intervened to break up a scuffle and prevent a stampede but the operation was generally proceeding in a calm and orderly manner, according to Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Demolition crews will move in today to start tearing down the camp, one of the biggest in Europe where 6 000 to 8 000 people, among them about 1 300 children, have been living for months.
Officials said they aimed to relocate up to 2 500 people on the first day and complete the operation by tomorrow evening.
The head of the Auberge des Migrants (Migrants’ Hostel), one of the Jungle’s leading charities, Christian Salome, said those who departed yesterday had been impatient to leave.
“I’m much more concerned about later in the week when the only ones remaining are those who do not want to leave, who still want to reach England,” he said, estimating their number at about 2 000.On Sunday night, the police fired teargas during sporadic skirmishes with migrants around the camp.
Riots erupted when the authorities razed the southern half of the settlement in March.
More than one million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa flooded into Europe last year, sowing divisions across the28-nation bloc and fuelling the rise of far-right parties.
Located on wasteland next to Calais port, the 4km² Jungle has become a symbol of Europe’s failure to resolve the crisis.
It has also strained ties between France and Britain and angered residents in Calais, where police try nightly to repel migrants trying to climb onto trucks heading across the Channel.
As the evacuation got underway some migrants were still clinging to hopes of a new life across the Channel.
Karhazi, a young Afghan, sounded a defiant note. “They’ll have to force us to leave. We want to go to Britain,” he said.
French authorities say those who agree to be relocated can apply for asylum in France. Those who resist could be deported.
British officials have been racing to process unaccompanied child refugees seeking refuge across the water.
By Saturday, 194 minors had been given a ticket to Britain under a fast-track process.