Preparations underway for demolition of Calais camp

Demolition crews preparing to move into Calais camp where refugees have been trying to stave off bulldozers with legal complaint

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

A migrant walks in the mud at makeshift camp where over 1,000 migrants , mostly from northern Iraq, live in Grand-Synthe, near the northern town of Dunkerque, France. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016.

Demolition crews are set to move into a sprawling slum camp in Calais for thousands of refugees trying to get to Britain, as French authorities try to close an embarrassing and often shocking chapter in Europe's refugee crisis.

An eviction deadline Tuesday for the camp's southern sector came and went, with refugees and humanitarian groups trying to stave off bulldozers through a legal complaint, a letter to the interior minister and public pleas.

A judge at the Administrative Court in Lille is likely to decide on Thursday on a request by humanitarian groups to postpone the destruction.

German lawmakers have approved a package of measures meant to speed up the processing of refugees and cut the number of newcomers.

Parliament voted 429-147 on Wednesday for the package, with four abstentions. It foresees special centers being set up to quickly process migrants who have little realistic chance of winning asylum.

Germany registered nearly 1.1 million people as asylum seekers last year and officials are keen to ensure that the number is lower this year.

Lawmakers also approved plans to amend laws so even a suspended prison sentence would be grounds for deportation if someone is found guilty of certain crimes including bodily harm, sexual assault or violent theft.

France's interior minister is criticising Belgium for tightening border controls over concerns about a flood of migrants from a camp in France.

Belgium has sent up to 290 extra police officers to their common border after French authorities moved to close a migrant camp in Calais known as the jungle.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Thursday described Belgium's move as "a strange decision."

Hungary has the right to organise a referendum on refugee quotas, Klaas Dijkhoff, migration minister for the Netherlands - which currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency- said on Thursday.

"Every country has the right to organise referenda. It seems to be quite popular these days on European issues," Dijkhoff told reporters in Brussels ahead of a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers.

Also, Budapest announced on Wednesday a referendum on the EU's plan to introduce mandatory quotas on refugees, as a part of its policy to prevent an influx of refugees from the Middle East.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said more than 100,000 refugees have reached European countries so far this year.

The organisation said in a statement on Tuesday that 97,325 refugees have arrived in Greece while another 7,507 have reached Italy.

TRTWorld and agencies