‘Jungle’ camp in flames as demolition process begins
Fires cut through a swathe of the Calais “Jungle” on Wednesday, sending migrants fleeing, as French authorities prepared to ramp up demolition of the camp. The fires spread just hours after workers protected by police moved in Tuesday to clear the camp that has been home to an estimated 6,000-8,000 migrants, many with hopes of reaching Britain.
“Our tents were burning. Someone set fire to them,” said Siddiq (16), who was forced by the flames to sleep under a bridge at the camp’s entrance. He added: “I have seen many fires before, but not like this.”
A local official downplayed the blazes, saying: “It’s a tradition among communities who set fire to their homes before leaving.”
On Tuesday, workers in hard hats and orange overalls used power saws to reduce shacks to piles of wood and plastic that were removed by diggers. Mattresses, blankets, clothes, pots and suitcases left behind by migrants were also carted away.
Located next to the port of Calais, the Jungle has for years been a launchpad for migrants attempting to make it to Britain by sneaking onto lorries or jumping onto trains heading across the Channel.
As part of the camp’s clearance, 3,242 adults have been transferred to centres around France since Monday and 772 unaccompanied minors have been moved to shipping containers converted into temporary shelters in the Jungle, the interior ministry said. The numbers represent around half the camp’s estimated population before the operation began, according to official figures. The authorities have said those who agree to be moved can seek asylum in France. Those who refuse risk deportation.
The Jungle’s thousand-plus unaccompanied minors have been the main focus of charities’ concerns, and hundreds of anxious youths queued Tuesday for interviews with French and British officials who will decide their fate. Britain took in around 200 teenagers in the week before the clearance began as an eleventh-hour gesture, with the transfers resuming Tuesday after a hiatus on Monday.
A reporter saw a coach, carrying around 30 child refugees, arrive at an immigration office in the London district of Croydon. The curtains on the bus were drawn after pictures of some teenagers reunited with family in Britain sparked accusations that they had lied about being children.
French Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said all unaccompanied minors “with proven family links in Britain” would eventually be transferred and that London had committed to reviewing all other cases where it was “in the child’s interest” to settle across the Channel.