Refugees stranded in Calais after camp closure spark fears of ‘another Jungle’

Dozens of refugees remain in and around the camp after an insufficient number of buses arrived to disperse people in reception centres across France

May Bulman
Thursday 27 October 2016 20:06
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A refugee prepares to spend the night after the dismantlement of the Jungle camp
A refugee prepares to spend the night after the dismantlement of the Jungle camp

Dozens of refugees remain in and around the Jungle and scores more are thought to have dispersed into other parts of Calais, sparking fears of “another Jungle”.

Following the authorities’ announcement on Wednesday evening that the closure of the camp had been a “success”, more than 1,000 refugees, including more than 100 children, were stranded around the burnt-down shantytown and faced the prospect of having nowhere safe to sleep.

By Thursday evening aid workers and charities on the ground reported that more than 60 refugees remained in and around the camp, including around 30 children, who faced the prospect of spending a second night sleeping outside.

Scores of refugees are also said to have dispersed into Calais on Wednesday, potentially to other settlements in the area, after buses that had reportedly been promised by the French authorities failed to turn up following the closure of the Jungle.

Migrants with their belongs gather on a street and protect themselves from the cold as they prepare to spend the night after the dismantlement of the "Jungle" camp in Calais,

On Wednesday night shelter was organised by volunteers in the registration warehouse and a nearby school for many of the children, but around 20 slept outside along with dozens of adults. The container camp – where unaccompanied minors had been promised shelter – was pronounced full, and the situation remained the same on Thursday evening.

Rowan Farrell, co-founder of charity Refugee Info Bus, told The Independent the lack of provision for the remaining refugees risked the start of another camp because people were being left with “little choice” but to remain there.

Mr Farrell said: “We just feel like we’re right back at square one. There are 60 people – it’s like the start of the next Jungle.

“I’ve just been round talking to people and most of them want to get on a bus to go to the accommodation centres in France, which is what they were told they’d be able to do. They’re not looking to set up another Jungle to start for England. But right now they have little choice.

“Thousands and thousands of people have gone to reception centres, which we’re very happy about. But another 60 people on the street, it just feels like the start of something else. Zero has been put in place by the French Government for the people still sitting here.”

Mr Farrell added that several dozen minors remained outside because they were not being granted access to the designated container camp due to not having wristbands, and that the lack of information has meant youth services on the ground are still struggling to grasp the system of registering children. He said: “Some have wristbands, some don’t, some are different colours. Some are allowed into the containers, some can’t. It’s very confusing.”

Dorothy Sang, of Save the Children, who was at the Jungle on Thursday evening, told The Independent the French authorities had not delivered on their word to transport all willing refugees to reception centres. She said: “We were told at around midday that a bus would come. It’s now 6pm and there’s no sign of a bus and we have no information.

“The police are slowly moving us up the road. And once again we’re faced with the prospect of children having nowhere to sleep tonight, and it’s really freezing tonight.”

Clare Mosely, founder of charity Care4Calais, also on the ground, told The Independent: “They’ve said no more registration. Riot police are just telling us to go. These kids have nowhere to sleep tonight. We have no idea what to do.”

Several children were seen being escorted away by French police earlier in the day after they were allegedly stopped for not being registered. The Refugee Youth Service later reported that the children were in communication with a Legal Shelter in the camp to try access legal aid.

Amber Rudd reminded the French authorities of their duty to “properly protect” children in the Jungle on Thursday. The Home Secretary spoke to her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve, according to a Home Office spokesman, “to stress the need for children who remain in Calais to be properly protected.”

The Home Office statement continued: “[The Home Secretary] reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to working with the French to make sure all minors eligible to come to the UK continue to be transferred as quickly as possible.

“Any child either not eligible or not in the secure area of the camp should be cared for and safeguarded by the French authorities. We understand specialist facilities have been made available elsewhere in France to ensure this happens.”

A total of 5,596 people have been evacuated since the operation began on Monday with many being taken away on buses, according to French ministries.

At the start of the week Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, warned that the demolition of the camp was unlikely to mark the end of the issue for the town, which remains on the map as a perceived gateway to Britain for migrants and refugees.

The camp itself, now largely burnt down, was said to be almost completely deserted last night, with just a handful of refugees remaining in there.

A spokeswoman for the local prefecture said the demolition would be sped up on Thursday with larger machinery moving in.

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