Calais Jungle demolition begins as riot police move into migrant camp

First demolitions of unoccupied shelters have been carried out in the southern part of the camp with minimal opposition

John Lichfield
Monday 29 February 2016 13:52 GMT
The first demolitions in the camp were carried out by hand
The first demolitions in the camp were carried out by hand (AFP/Getty Images)

French riot police and demolition workers have moved into the “jungle” migrant camp near Calais and begun to flatten unoccupied shelters.

The move is the first stage of the demolition of the southern part of the camp, approved by a French court last Thursday. A British woman activist was arrested for trying to impede the work, French police said.

Bulldozers and water-cannon also moved into the area but the first demolitions were carried out by hand, with minimal opposition.

The Government plans to dismantle most of the camp by the end of March (AP)

French authorities have said that no one will be removed from their shelters by force. They say that occupants of the southern section of the sprawling camp – totalling 3,450 people according to charities and pressure groups and 1,000 according to police - will be asked to move elsewhere.

Some will be offered places in the official shelters formed by converted shipping containers in the northern part of the camp. Others will be offered transport to homes in other parts of France where they will be encouraged to start the procedures for seeking French asylum.

The Prefect – senior national goverbment official – for the Pas de Calais area, Fabienne Buccio, said that the 100 riot police were present because British “No Borders”activists had tried to disrupt preparatory work over the weekend.

“We are carrying out our orders so that…, the destruction work can continue calmly and that the migrants are not under pressure from the No Borders activists,” Ms Buccio said.

Judge upholds eviction of refugees from Calais camp

She accused the activists of “intimidating” the migrants to stop them mounting buses to other French destinations. She also said that they had screamed insults at French officials sent to talk to the migrants and had sprayed slogans on their jackets.

The French government plans to dismantle most of the “jungle” by the end of March. Only the official camp, with space for 1,500 migrants, will be allowed to remain.

A consortium of eight charities and pressure groups challenged the decision in a French court last week. After visiting the camp, the judges decided that the clearance of makeshift shelters in the southern section of the camp nearest to the slip road to Calais port could go ahead.

The judges ordered, however, that “social” buildings such as makeshift restaurants, schools, medical centres and places of worship must be left intact. The pressure groups have appealed against the ruling to France’s highest court.

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