French police evacuate migrants from camp near Dunkirk

At least 1,500 people gathered at former industrial complex in hope of crossing English Channel to Britain

Chiara Giordano
Tuesday 16 November 2021 18:48
<p>Migrants, including some families with young children, could be seen packing their few belongings early on Tuesday morning</p>

Migrants, including some families with young children, could be seen packing their few belongings early on Tuesday morning

French police have evacuated migrants from a makeshift camp near Dunkirk where at least 1,500 people gathered in the hopes of making it across the English Channel to Britain.

Migrants, including some families with young children, could be seen packing their few belongings early on Tuesday morning as police surrounded the camp, located at the site of a former industrial complex in Grande-Synthe, while several buses lined up nearby.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said: “When we are dismantling a migrant camp, that’s above all to put people into shelters, especially as winter comes.”

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin and UK home secretary Priti Patel said they had a phone call on Monday evening about the issue of small boats used by migrants to try to cross the Channel.

Mr Darmanin, who said authorities would provide shelter for the migrants, tweeted: “We are going to continue our operational cooperation and step up our common action against smugglers’ networks.”

He also revealed police had dismantled a network of smugglers in the Dunkirk region, leading to 13 people being detained, and that 1,308 people suspected of being smugglers had been arrested since the beginning of the year.

Aid group Utopia 56 said several evacuations of camps in the region have been organised in the past month with no adapted response to take care of migrants.

The group stressed that the state didn’t organise food distribution or provide toilets or shower facilities at the camp.

Local authorities have warned of dire sanitary conditions and overcrowding, the fast-approaching winter and deepening tensions between migrants and traffickers that often turn violent.

Police surround the makeshift camp in Grande-Synthe

Yann Manzi, founder of Utopia 56, said those clustered in Grande-Synthe were primarily Iraqi Kurds who arrived through trafficking networks.

Most are trying to cross the English Channel in small inflatable boats because police have made it harder to sneak on to trucks and ferries.

With its ports and tunnel to cross the English Channel, northern France has always been a magnet for people seeking to cross to Britain, fuelled by traffickers’ promises of a better life there.

The crossings are a source of friction between the UK and France, with British officials saying France should do more to stop boats leaving. France argues Britain should do more to help French authorities manage the migrants and stop traffickers.

More than 23,000 people have reached the UK in small boats across the English Channel this year, including 1,185 last Thursday, a record for a single day.

Thousands more have been rescued at sea by French maritime authorities.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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