Calais 'jungle' camp will be closed 'as quickly as possible', says French minister

Despite a police operation to half the size of the camp its population has increased

Will Worley
Friday 02 September 2016 21:34 BST
Mr Cazeneuve has discussed the issue of the camp with the Home Secretary Amber Rudd
Mr Cazeneuve has discussed the issue of the camp with the Home Secretary Amber Rudd (Michel Spingler/AP)

France’s interior minister has vowed to dismantle the ‘jungle’ refugee and migrant camp near Calais “as quickly as possible”.

Bernard Cazeneuve’s remarks came as the town struggled to cope with a further of influx of refugees and migrants.

Despite a police operation to half the size of the camp - with authorities dismantling the southern area of the camp In February and March - its population has increased. Local authorities estimated around 7,000 migrants are living in the “jungle” up from 4,500 in June, but humanitarian groups put the number closer to 9,000 inhabitants.

“I want the closure of the camp as quickly as possible,” Mr Cazeneuve told reporters. He added to a local newspaper that the closure would go ahead “with the greatest determination” in order to “unblock Calais”. Some have suggested the camp could be dismantled by the end of the year.

His visit came three days before local businesses, dockers, truckers and farmers block a major highway to demand that the camp now holding record numbers of migrants, most trying to cross the English Channel, be shut down.

The minister met with local officials, business representatives and some of the 2,000 police officers who man roadways, the Eurotunnel train site and the port to keep migrants from hopping trucks to Britain.

Mr Cazeneuve said thousands of new shelters and welcome centres would be created to accommodate migrants in the coming months, but that he would also increase the number of police officers in the region to help manage the crisis.

Calais refugees find musical inspiration in the Jungle

There have been long running tensions in Calais between residents and the inhabitants of the 'jungle' camp. Overcrowding has also increased tensions between migrants, and two died in fights within a month. Seven others were killed this year on the roads.

Mr Cazeneuve said he had discussed the issue with British Home Secretary Amber Rudd during her visit to Paris this week and would do so again in two weeks when he goes to Britain, adding without explanation, “because on this subject I want, of course, that we go to the end of this with the British.”

Conditions in the camp are extremely poor and there have been numerous instances of some migrants behaving violently towards British truck drivers, in an attempt to enter the UK. Migrants' efforts to force their way through the Channel Tunnel or to stow away aboard trucks have also disrupted traffic between France and Britain.

"It's more than a relief,” said Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart. She has long asked the state to bring in the army to deal with migrants who each night venture into the roadways to try to hop trucks cross the English Channel to Britain.

Previous efforts to close the camp have ended in violence, with shelters being set on fire and tear gas being deployed by French police, among other methods.

Aid groups fear any quick dismantling of the camp will increase chaos and create a bigger humanitarian crisis than the one at hand.

“Asking for the dismantling of the camp today would mean a worsening of the situation instead of solving the problems,” said Francois Guennoc of Auberge des Migrants, one of a handful of aid groups that warned in an open letter that razing the camp would scatter migrants and aggravate the situation protesters deplore.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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