France clears ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais, children in limbo
France began clearing the sprawling ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday as hundreds gave up on their dreams of reaching Britain, a tantalisingly short sea crossing away. Following sporadic outbreaks of unrest overnight, the migrants chose instead with calm resignation to be relocated in France, while their asylum requests are considered.
By lunchtime more than 700 had left squalid shanty-town outside Calais on France’s northern coast for reception centres across the country. Hundreds more queued outside a hangar, waiting to be processed before the bulldozers move in.
French officials celebrated a peaceful start to yet another attempt to dismantle the camp, which has become a symbol of Europe’s failure to respond to the migration crisis as member states squabble over who should take in those fleeing war and poverty.
But some aid workers warned that the trouble overnight, when some migrants burned toilet blocks and threw stones at riot police in protest at the camp’s closure, indicated tensions could escalate.
The Socialist government says it is closing the camp, home to 6,500 migrants, on humanitarian grounds. It plans to relocate them to 450 centres across France.
Many of the migrants are from Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea and had wanted to reach Britain, which is connected to France by a rail tunnel and visible from Calais on a clear day. Britain, however, bars most of them on the basis of European Union rules, requiring them to seek asylum in the first member states they set foot in.
Even as the process began, the fate of 1,300 unaccompanied child migrants remained uncertain.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve had last week urged Britain to step up efforts to identify and resettle child migrants. London has given priority to children with family ties and discussions are underway with Paris over who should take in minors with no connections.