French police pull down migrants’ campsite in Dunkirk, a week after Channel tragedy

Armed officers entered campsite next to disused railway track where scores had been living

Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:54
Migrants determined to reach UK despite tragedy

Police have dismantled a camp where asylum seekers hoping to make the Channel crossing were staying in Dunkirk.

Armed officers were seen entering the site in Grande-Synthe, where tents had been pitched along a narrow patch of land between an old railway line and a road, on Tuesday morning.

Workers in protective gear then started to pull down tents and plastic shelters that had been set up.

Police routinely break up campsites in northern France where people live while waiting to try and cross the English Channel.

Scores of people had moved to the site near a disused railway in Grande-Synthe after police dismantled a large campsite that was nearby - where more than 1,000 lived - around two weeks ago.

Asylum seekers at the site had said they were living with little food, little clothing, no access to a shower and in very cold conditions.

Utopia56, a charity operating in Dunkirk, told The Independent police started to dismantle the new campsite up on Tuesday morning.

After police break up the camps and take down tents, asylum seekers are typically transported to holding centres scattered across France where they are encouraged to file for asylum.

But people at the Grande-Synthe site - which included asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan - told The Independent last week they wanted to come to the UK rather than stay in France, because they spoke the language, thought there were good job oppotunities or because they had family there.

Many quickly make their way back to the Channel coast after being transported elsewhere by French authorities.

Hussein Hamid, a 25-year-old Iranian Kurd, said Tuesday was the second time he had been evicted. On the first occasion, he was sent on a bus to Lyon 760km to the south.

During the eviction two weeks ago, people were forced onto buses without being told where they were going, Anna Richel from Utopia56 said.

The latest expulsion comes less than a week after at least 27 migrants died trying to cross the English Channel in the deadliest shipwreck since the crisis began.

France and the UK have been engaged in a row over the migrant crisis, with the French interior minister accusing the UK is “not taking its share” of asylum seekers in the latest war of words.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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