Calais migrants: 'Jungle' camp demolition set to begin

France is set to begin the next stage of its clearance of the “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais, sending in teams to dismantle its structures.

More than 2,300 migrants left the camp voluntarily on Monday, taken on buses to reception areas across France.

The exodus will continue on Tuesday, with hundreds already queuing to leave.

The Jungle has become a key symbol of Europe’s migration crisis, with 7,000-8,000 people living in squalid conditions, desperate to reach the UK.

The clearance process has been peaceful so far, but concerns remain that some migrants will stay put, refusing to give up their attempts to cross the Channel.

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The BBC’s Simon Jones, at the camp, was jostled as police tried to keep order among the hundreds of migrants who lined up early on Tuesday to get on coaches out of the camp.

He says that officials will move in later to begin clearing the Jungle’s infrastructure. But they are expected to do so by hand, as sending in bulldozers at this point would send the wrong message to migrants they want to convince to get on buses voluntarily.

Christian Salome of the Auberge des Migrants charity said the process was working well so far because those leaving were the ones who wanted to.

But he added: “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.”

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 – Day One

But the process of transferring some of the estimated 1,300 unaccompanied children from the camp was halted on Monday at the request of the French.

The operation to clear the tents and shelters is expected to take three days. More than 1,200 police have been deployed.

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

Correspondents say the demolition of the camp is a sign from the government to the people of Calais that their concerns are being taken seriously while also a message to remaining residents that the camp will not remain a place of shelter.

‘Controlled manner’

Long queues had formed on Monday outside reception centres in the camp as the French authorities worked to determine whether individual migrants were with family members or travelling alone, and whether they were deemed to be vulnerable.

After processing, they boarded buses to different parts of France where they will be given the opportunity to claim asylum, or face deportation.

Britain still within reach: Clea Caulcutt, BBC News, Normandy

Forty-five migrants, all young men from Afghanistan, are settling into the Miramar hotel in Saint Germain-sur-Ay, an empty holiday centre that looks out to the sea.

At the local pizzeria, residents have gathered to vent their discontent. They complain that the migrants will disturb the tranquillity of the resort. They are also worried that the young men will be unsupervised and break into homes that have been closed up for the winter.

Less vocal are those who don’t mind the arrival of the Afghan migrants, those who think it’s only human to welcome those who have spent so many months in the squalor of Calais.

For the migrants, it should be a short stay. They will be encouraged to claim asylum in France and then maybe move onto more permanent housing. But even here, several hundred kilometres from Calais, the allure of the UK is still strong.

From the hotel you can clearly see the island of Jersey – British shores are still within reach.

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

The first step of the clearance had taken place in a “calm and controlled manner”, he said.

Some volunteers complained that the migrants had not been given enough information.

What is the Jungle?

  • The Jungle camp is near the port of Calais and close to the 31-mile Channel Tunnel
  • Officially about 7,000 migrants live in the camp. The Help Refugees agency said the final population ahead of its demolition was 8,143
  • The camp was halved in area earlier this year but the population continued to rise, and reports of violence have increased
  • Many migrants attempt to hide themselves in cargo vehicles entering the Channel Tunnel
  • The area has been hit by protests from both locals and truck operators

Last 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.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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