France moves to dismantle part of Calais ‘Jungle’ camp

French media report ‘massive’ police presence, including 40 vans of riot police in situ

Police and migrants continue to clash as authorities work on clearing out the southern section of a migrant camp near Calais. Video: Reuters


French authorities have begun what appears to be a concerted if gradual process to dismantle the sprawling refugee camp in Calais, France known as the Jungle.

Volunteers helping those inside the collection of makeshift structures and tents, which houses an estimated 3,500 people, said workers began taking down homes in the southern section of the camp from early on Monday morning, backed by police.

Videos on French media websites show people in orange jackets dismantling wooden structures by hand, with riot police in the background. The debris was loaded into a large container. About 20 shelters were reportedly pulled down.

A spokeswoman for British volunteer group Help Refugees said the demolition work had continued for much of the day, and that 60-70 camp residents had lost their accommodation. One British activist was reportedly arrested.

Calais authorities have pledged to dismantle a significant part of the southern section of the encampment. The work was delayed by a legal appeal by migrant charities, rejected by a French court late last week.

Moving to Calais

“We don’t really know yet what people will do, but it seems likely some will just be dispersed to other areas around Calais,” she said.

Clare Moseley, of British volunteer group Care4Calais, said prefecture officials had arrived at the camp at 7am and given residents an hour’s notice to leave or face arrest.

“The police presence is massive,” she said. “They have the whole area cordoned off.” French media reported that about 40 vans of riot police were in position near the site.

Blocked volunteers

“People were being told they had to leave, otherwise they would be arrested,” the charity’s spokeswoman said. “A lot of people seemed quote confused.”

Fabienne Buccio, the head of the Calais prefecture, said three-fourths of the homes in the southern part of the camp were now empty after officials encouraged residents to leave.

Police were needed, she said, in case what she described as “extremists” tried to stop migrants accepting offers of new accommodation or buses to centres elsewhere in France.

A census carried out by two charities recorded 3,455 people living in the Jungle. One group told the Guardian earlier this week that this included 445 children, of whom 305 were unaccompanied.

– ( Guardian service)