Protests as children held in 'Jungle' migrants swoop

Refugee groups attacked today's "distressing" swoop on the Jungle camp in Calais as calls were made for Britain to consider taking in some of the dozens of detained child immigrants.

Up to 600 French police surrounded the site on the edge of the English Channel port in an early morning swoop.

Amid angry scenes, French authorities said 278 people were detained, including 132 who declared themselves as children.

Later, bulldozers and tree surgeons moved in to clear the area.

Gemma Juma, policy manager at the Refugee Council, branded the camp's "hideous" conditions as shameful today and called on Britain to look at taking in any children with links to this country.

"We've always been concerned about the vulnerability of the people living in hideous conditions. The fact that so many are so young should make us ashamed that a better solution hasn't been found before now," she said.

"We need to make sure all of those children are safe and properly looked after.

"If this means, in a small number of cases, bringing them to the UK to be reunited with friends and family then, as an option, that should not be ruled out."

Julia Ravenscroft, spokeswoman for Refugee Action, said of today's police intervention: "There were some distressing scenes and some very young people taken from the camp this morning.

"The fact that the French had let people know what was going to happen in the morning meant that some of the very vulnerable, including children, were left behind."

Lisa Nandy, policy adviser at the Children's Society, added: "We are concerned by the reports that children have been detained.

"Obviously, it's a scary and terrifying experience for them - it would be for anyone - and we just hope that their care is prioritised from now.

"They should be given the opportunity to claim asylum in the UK and elsewhere."

Prefect of Pas-de-Calais Pierre de Bousquet de Florian said the detained adults were taken to various police stations and the children to "special centres".

Police circled the camp at first light and rounded up people who had been living in the tent city.

There were scuffles as the camp dwellers, some in tears, were led away.

Dozens of protesters had also gathered at the site ahead of the operation and chanted "shame on France" as police moved in.

Ahead of the swoop, many immigrants stood quietly behind banners that declared: "We need shelter and protection, we want peace."

As police entered the site, some activists shouted: "No borders. No nation. No deportation."

About 12 migrants who refused to move were dragged and carried out of the camp by police.

The camp has been home to hundreds of mainly Afghan asylum seekers.

French immigration minister Eric Besson hailed the operation.

"My objective was not to round up the greatest possible number of migrants by surprising them at dawn, but to destroy the continuous flow of trafficked human beings," he told a press conference.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson praised the "swift and decisive" clearing of the site by French authorities.

But he said genuine refugees should apply for asylum in the country where they entered the EU.

Sail Pardes, 15, from eastern Afghanistan, was at the camp for six months and hoped to make it across the Channel.

"The most important thing is to get to England," he said. "I want to go to school and become a better person."