The Jungle refugee camp in Calais will be completely demolished “very soon”, the mayor of the French town has said.
Natacha Bouchart, the right-wing mayor of Calais, said the remaining half of the ramshackle area, currently inhabited by thousands of refugees – including hundreds of children – will soon be razed.
Ms Bouchart said French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve had approved the destruction of the remaining half of the camp and would announce it soon.
She added: “For our country, its population and its economic actors, urgency is definitely there!
“We can’t wait any longer, we need to know as fast as possible when and how the Jungle will be torn down.”
French Officials estimate there are about 4,500 refugees in the “Jungle”, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, but the latest census by Help Refugees UK puts that number at 7000, of whom 425 are unaccompanied minors. According to Agence France-Presse, in the last 24 hours, molotov cocktails were thrown by refugees onto the Calais bypass in reaction to the announcement.
Josie Naughton, Co-founder of Help Refugees, said in a statement: “This is absolutely terrible news. Hundreds of children went missing the last time French police moved in to evict the camp. That is sure to happen again unless British officials act to ensure these children are protected.”
Pierre Henry, director general of French refugee charity Terre d'Asile, told The Independent: “It’s easy to demolish the camp, but the difficulty is in building something news – we need to create a functioning legal route for asylum seekers.
“Brexit has changed nothing. In reality, we need to cooperate with a good spirit and respect international law. Renegotiations will happen, but we must now consider the many women and children in danger.”
Earlier this year, the southern part of the camp was demolished after approval from a French court, with around three thousand refugees forced to live in shipping containers deemed "inadequate" by charities. Thousands of police and security personnel are currently deployed around the Jungle, as refugees have made deadly attempts to cross to the UK.
A report by the Refugee Rights Data Project found more than three-quarters of refugees living in the “Jungle” said they experienced police violence.
Lily Caprani, Deputy Executive Director at Unicef UK, described the reports as “deeply worrying”.
She said: “This will cut off any hope of a safe and legal route, which they’re entitled to, and effectively drive them onto the train tracks and into the backs of lorries.
“For the refugees who’ve left their homes fleeing conflict, these reports must come as another blow to their hopes of reaching safety.”
The Calais préfecture, which has the responsibility of issuing a demolition order, told The Independent it had no news on the issue.
Calais and Dunkirk camps
Calais and Dunkirk camps
(Photo: Alan Schaller)
A portrait of an Afghan man wearing a traditional Perhan Turban in the Calais Jungle (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
Two Gendarmes guard the main entrance to the Dunkirk camp (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
One Kurdish Iraqi man’s reminder to himself (Photo: Alan Schaller)
Two young boys in the Dunkirk camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
An Iranian hunger striker stands outside the only remaining shelter in the South Side of the Calais camp (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
A church in the South Calais camp, on of the the only structures not demolished in the South Side of the camp (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
A man gets a hair cut in the Calais camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
Night falls on the Calais Jungle. Fires burn in the distance (Photo: Alan Schaller)
The containers provided as alternative accommodation for the people in the camps (Photo: Alan Schaller)
A young boy in the Dunkirk camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
A man listens to music inside one of the shipping containers (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
The awful living conditions in the Dunkirk camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
An Afghan man in the Calais camp (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
One of the Iranian hunger strikers (Photo: Alan Schaller)
A family in their wooden shelter in the new Dunkirk camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
The Mayor of Calais previously called for the decade old Le Touquet agreement with the UK, which places the border between the two countries on French soil, to be scrapped.