Calais Jungle clearance: Reports that refugees could be armed raises fears of violent clashes with police

French police warn they will use force as they clear shacks, reports Oscar Quine in Calais

Oscar Quine
Calais
Tuesday 01 March 2016 23:32
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Refugees watch on as shacks are burnt down at the Jungle camp in Calais
Refugees watch on as shacks are burnt down at the Jungle camp in Calais

Fears are growing that violence will escalate between police and refugees in Calais amid reports that some of the Jungle camp’s inhabitants have armed themselves with guns and tear gas.

The second day of the camp’s clearance saw police and local officials make swift progress with the demolition of makeshift homes in the southern part of the camp.

Despite clashes on Monday, the day passed peacefully, marked by a sense of dejection if not defeat, among inhabitants of the Jungle.

But it is believed that some refugees in the camp have acquired tear gas while others have acquired guns – a firearm was recently discharged in the camp.

Volunteer groups and community leaders united to condemn any form of violence while expressing frustration at the lack of information being provided by authorities.

Josie Naughton, 31, a co-founder of the charity Help Refugees, said the lack of “clarity” discouraged refugees from moving to reception centres across the country.

France starts to dismantle Calais 'Jungle' refugee camp

“It has been very hard to get information,” she said. “And a lack of information creates fear and confusion. If the authorities had each day said they would clear this area and register people for buses then a lot more people would go for that.”

Buses departed the camp on Monday and Friday of last week bound for other French cities, including Montpellier, Marseilles and Rennes, where refugees are being offered accommodation in reception centres. It is thought that on Friday 15 refugees left on board the buses.

French police warned that they were prepared to use force if refugees refused to move either to accommodation within the camp in modified shipping containers or to reception centres.

Refugees and volunteers complained that violence from the police would only exacerbate the situation.

“It’s difficult to think there is a coherent plan when four days ago they said that there would be a soft eviction and then they come in with force,” said Joe Robertson, co-founder of the Good Chance organisation based within the camp. “The refugees weren’t expecting what happened yesterday and these are people who are already suspicious of authorities.”

Staring into a small camp fire, a 32-year-old Sudanese man who gave his name as Muhammad said he had no reason to trust the authorities. “The prefecture told us it would only be voluntary but yesterday they were carrying people from their shelters. How can we believe them about the shipping containers and the buses?

“I lived in Darfur and travelled for a year and have stayed here now for six months. I’m not giving up until I get to England.”

French police prepare to remove a woman, who threatened to cut her wrists, and a man from the top of a hut as they clear the Jungle camp in Calais

The day began with a moment of drama when a woman climbed on top of a shelter and said she would slit her wrists. She was quickly pulled to the ground by police along with the man she was with. Her condition afterwards was unknown.

Officers formed a cordon to keep refugees and volunteers away from the clearance area. Behind them, officials in day-glo workwear demolished structures by hand while tractors cleared debris into skips. It is thought the clearance will take a number of days if not weeks. Many of the refugees will simply relocate within the camp.

Other refugees could be seen leaving the Jungle with their possessions, their destination unknown. Many will probably head to the settlements emerging around crossing points such as Dunkirk.

“It may be the end of the Jungle,” said Mr Robertson. “But it will be the beginning of many more Jungles along the coast.”

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