By Matthias Blamont, with additional writing by Leigh Thomas and Andrew Callus; Editing by Robin Pomeroy
25 October 2016
CALAIS, France (Reuters) – French workers began demolishing the "Jungle" shanty town in Calais on Tuesday, wielding sledgehammers to tear down makeshift dwellings as former residents - migrants seeking entry to Britain - were moved out.
Police equipped with water canon stood guard as hundreds of migrants - some of whom have lived in the scrubland on the northern French coast for months or years - waited for busses to take them for resettlement across France.
"The migrants have known for a long time this was going to happen," the Calais region's prefect, Fabienne Buccio, told Reuters after arriving at the camp escorted by between 150 and 200 riot police.
"We are making sure it is done properly. We define an area, and then we go in."
Groups of young men who have fled war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, kept warm around piles of burning rubbish in the camp, a filthy expanse that has become a symbol of Europe's failed migration policies.
A large fire blazed at one point, but then appeared to be brought under control, and there was no repeat of the minor skirmishes with security forces seen over the weekend.
Officials said the operation was going peacefully.
For many of the migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and other conflict zones, the closure of the Jungle marked the end of a dream to reach Britain, which lies a tantalizingly short sea crossing away.
"We know the Jungle is over," said Aarash, a 21-year-old Afghan as he made his way to the hangar where immigration officials were processing the migrants.
"We will see if we can get on a bus today, but we want a good city, like one near Paris. If we can't go there we will come back to the Jungle." [more]
By Bryony Jones
25 October 2016
Calais, France (CNN) – A team of workers in France began the long-awaited demolition of the "Jungle" migrant camp on Tuesday, pulling down tents, shacks and other makeshift shelters that thousands have called home over the past two years.
CNN journalists saw a team of "cleaners," as French officials call them, in orange jumpsuits and hardhats tearing down the temporary structures and disposing of migrants' possessions, dropping mattresses, pillows and blankets into a dumpster with an excavator.
Thousands are still left in the camp, and aid workers traveled tent to tent to make sure no one was left inside before workers come in.
Refugees get ready to leave Calais as demolition begins at the Jungle migrant camp Tuesday.
More than 3,100 migrants have been bussed out of the Jungle since authorities began a sweep Monday, sending them to regions around the country to begin a months-long resettlement process. Among them were more than 500 children.
Workers were scheduled to move in at 8 a.m. local time, but Calais officials delayed the operation until the afternoon to have a security cordon placed around the camp.
France has for more than a year vowed to raze the 4 square-kilometer camp, but its requests to do so had been shot down several times in court.
Authorities dismantled part of the camp early this year, but it failed to stop more and more migrants from arriving, with high hopes of crossing the Eurotunnel from Calais to reach the UK, just over 30 miles away.
The Jungle has become a gritty symbol of Europe's migrant crisis and has been a thorn in the French government's side. But to a tight-knit community there, it is also a symbol of determination and resilience -- more than 70 business have sprung up in the Jungle, including restaurants, cafes, bars, hairdressers and barbers, and leaving is not as simple as packing up and moving on.
One shabby home with a sleeping bag for a door had the words "Please do not destroy my home" scrawled across its front. [more]
By Damian Collins
24 October 2016
(CNN) – French authorities have begun the process of demolishing the migrant camp known as the Calais Jungle, and it is clear that the final few hours of this center are going to be just as big a disgrace as its previous existence.
I visited the Jungle earlier this month, just after President François Hollande had said that the camp would be closed down.
In light of this announcement, you might have expected that there would be official information points for the migrants, telling them about the alternative accommodation that the French authorities said they would provide, what they needed to do in order to be moved there, and encouraging them to leave straight away.
Yet, the only government representatives I saw were a couple of officials in red jackets, whom migrants could approach for information.
Very few migrants had received -- or knew how to get -- any information about where they would be moved. Many, rightly, feared that the camp would be demolished before all of the migrants had been moved out.
The consequence of this would be to scatter people across the region, leaving them prey to the dangerous human trafficking gangs that operate in the area. When part of the Jungle was cleared by French authorities earlier this year, it is believed that around 100 children disappeared.
Some politicians in France have stated that the only reason the Jungle exists is because the people there want to come to the UK.
Yet, when I was there I met families with young children who had already claimed asylum in France, but were still waiting, after five months, to be offered accommodation by the authorities in that country. They had been told that there was nowhere else for them to go.
There were also migrants living in Calais who had previously been moved to alternative centers in France, but had found the conditions there so bad that they had decided to return to the Jungle, even though it is little more than a shantytown with only the most basic facilities.
Standing next to people queuing for food and firewood in the Calais Jungle, you had to keep reminding yourself that you were in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. [more]