French demolition teams acting on an eviction order have begun dismantling huts with hammers in part of the Calais migrant camp known as the Jungle.They seem to be leaving inhabited huts intact as they move through the camp’s southern sector, with riot police standing by in support.Two bulldozers have appeared on the periphery and a water cannon has been deployed although not yet used.The government plans to relocate migrants to reception centres.Those living in the camp, mainly from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa, hope to cross the Channel to reach the UK, often using people traffickers to try to enter illegally.The authorities believe some 1,000 migrants will be affected by the eviction plan while aid agencies say the number of people living there is much higher.
Workers in high-visibility jackets could be seen tearing down structures and dumping material in a skip as police stood by.Good Chance, a theatre group which works in the camp, said police were preventing activists from entering the camp.”No volunteers access,” it said in a tweet. “People removed from houses. Police blocking entry. This is what they call a ‘soft demolition’.” A long line of parked CRS riot police vans stretched along a nearby road.French officials say public areas in the camp such as places of worship or schools will not be affected and describe the clearance as a “humanitarian operation”.Conditions in the southern sector are squalid and the camp’s sprawling presence has become a controversial issue in both France and the UK.
- Total camp population is disputed – Calais officials say it houses 3,700, while Help Refugees puts it at 5,497
- Figures for the southern half (facing immediate eviction threat) are estimated at either 800-1,000 or 3,455
- There are 205 women and 651 children (423 unaccompanied), says Help Refugees
- Local government’s long-term aim is to have no more than 2,000 migrants living in Calais, says its chief, Fabienne Buccio
Officials say migrants can either move into heated container accommodation in the northern sector of the camp, where there is room for 1,500 people, move to similar accommodation centres elsewhere in France or claim asylum in France.”We try to tell them that they are free… to make their own decisions,” Nathalie Seys of the social services department told the AP news agency last week, “and that, unlike what we are hearing, they will not be prisoners.”Many residents are reluctant to leave the Calais area.”Going to Britain… is what people [here] want,” Afghan migrant Hayat Sirat told AP. “So destroying part of the jungle is not the solution.”