Calais ‘Jungle’: France begins clearing migrant camp
- French authorities are clearing “The Jungle”
- 6,000 to 10,000 migrants will either be re-homed in France or have to return home
French authorities have begun the evacuation of the patch of wasteland the migrants have made their home in, a grim mosaic of squalid tents, makeshift shelters and tumbledown caravans at the side of a motorway in the French port city of Calais.
They will process between 6,000 to 10,000 migrants and refugees who have been living in the Jungle for months, some of them for years. The thing that has kept them going is the hope of someday making it 30 miles across the English Channel to the UK.
On Monday they face two choices: claim asylum and move to another area of France, or return to their countries of origin.
READ: Welcome to ‘The Jungle’
‘Change is coming’
Their options were laid out in a leaflet distributed by volunteers on Sunday evening.
“Everybody living in the Calais jungle will have to leave in order to be sheltered in one of the French reception and counseling centers,” the letter reads.
“You will receive help and the necessary information on the procedures that you will need to follow if you have applied or wish to apply for asylum.”
Emotions ran high in the camp all weekend as news of the impending demolition began to spread.
“It’s very tense because people know that change is coming,” Sue Jex, of charity Care 4 Calais told CNN. “There is a real acceptance that the camp is going (away).”
Late Sunday night, riot police were out in force, and some 1,250 police have been called in to prevent crowd control problems on Monday.
“Police services have been mobilized in large numbers — that’s not to push, but to secure the zone,” said French Interior Ministry spokesman, Pierre-Henry Brandet.
Migrants will ‘not be forced’
Before dawn, thousands had started to gather up their meager belongings and headed to the processing center — a short walk from the camp — where their fate will be decided.
To get there, they walked under the road leading to the cross-channel ferry, as truck after truck hurries on its way to the UK. They will head past the “Great Wall of Calais,” a high fence topped with barbed wire, constructed to stop camp residents risking their lives trying to stow away on the lorries.
At the center — in the middle of an industrial zone — they have been asked to join one of four lines: lone migrants, families, those considered ‘at risk’ (elderly, ill or disabled people, and pregnant women) and unaccompanied minors.
They are then herded through heavy red doors into a pebble-dashed hangar.
In bright blue tents pitched inside, they are being asked their decision.
Those who opt to stay in France will be shown a map and offered the choice of two regions.
They will then be handed a wristband signaling which they picked, before being taken to a bus and driven there almost immediately. Sixty buses will be on hand Monday, with 45 more available Tuesday.
But Brandet says migrants will not be forced to get on board. “This will be done on a voluntary basis and no coercive measures will be taken towards the migrants.”
“We can’t force anyone to get on a bus and go to regions where they don’t want to go. You have to convince them, and continue to do so. Tomorrow is an important day, but this will take several days.”
Children waiting for answers
Unaccompanied minors will be interviewed by French and British authorities to determine if they should be rehomed in Britain, under an agreement offering refuge to children and vulnerable young people.
They will be kept in a temporary shelter at the camp until a decision is made in their case.
Fabianne Buccio, head of the Pas de Calais local government authority said Sunday that about 200 children had been relocated to the UK during the past week. A UK Home Office spokesman declined to confirm that number.
CNN met two unaccompanied minors who have spent months trying to reach the UK — so far without success. After so long waiting for answers, they are both beginning to lose hope.
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