Volunteers say Calais camp more a village than a “Jungle”

French officials reveal plans to demolish the camp which nearly 7,000 people are forced to call home.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

France will start dismantling the camp on Monday. Residents of the camp will have to present themselves at a hangar where they will be separated into families, adults, unaccompanied minors and vulnerable individuals, including the elderly.

France said it will start demolishing the squalid Calais camp housing up to 7,000 people on Monday. Volunteer workers at the camp worry the refugees, mainly escaping war or poverty in Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea and Syria, will be uprooted from the bonds they formed at the Jungle as it is popularly known.

The camp has migrants and refugees who tried entering Britain which according to European Union rules requires them to seek asylum from the first country they seek foot in. Calais’ Jungle has come to represent the failure of European countries in coping with the humanitarian crisis.

"We can't call it the "Jungle" anymore. It's become a village. And if that village is not there anymore, they are no longer protected. They are given over to a manhunt, forced to hide anywhere, in little woods from left to right and that's not progress, as far as I'm concerned," Ferri, a volunteer at a women’s shelter there, said.

A French court this week dismissed a legal challenge by charities which had sought more time to come up with alternative housing.

A French interior ministry official said migrants will have to present themselves at a giant hangar where they will be separated into families, adults, unaccompanied minors and vulnerable individuals, including elderly people and single women.

They will then be bused to a network of 450 reception centres across the country, where they will receive medical checks and, if they have not already done so, decide whether to apply for asylum.

Migrants who refuse to move will be at risk of getting arrested, according to officials.

The children of Calais

Pressed by France to accomplish its "moral duty" to the hundreds of children with dreams of Britain who have found themselves trapped in the Jungle over the past two years, London has in the past week fast-tracked a scheme allowing minors to be united with family with Britain.

Fifty-two minors had arrived in Britain by Thursday, compared with just 83 in the six months to September, according to the France Terre d'Asile charity.

By Thursday evening, around 320 minors had been interviewed by British officials at registration points.

Most of those waiting at the gate for their interview with British officials were unaware of the tabloid headlines in England, voicing outrage over the "hulking males" seen among a group of minors who arrived in Britain earlier in the week.

The headlines —  which led a Conservative MP, David Davies, to call for dental checks to prove the migrants' ages —  have put pressure on Britain to, literally, sort the men from the boys.

As tabloid headlines in England voiced outrage over the "hulking males" seen among minors who arrived in Britain earlier, activists in London have tried to rally support for children to England with hopes of being reunited with distant family. (AFP)

However, as the bus rolled into Croyden in south-east London on Friday, dozens of activists holding balloons and banners chanted the "Calais kids are welcome here".

Bekele Woyecha, of the charity Citizens UK, said he had stood every day since Monday outside the tower block in Croydon, where dozens of migrants have been bussed in this week, "to show that we are with them".

"You cannot expect children to be in that place," he said of the Calais "Jungle" camp, which will be cleared by French authorities on Monday.

"They need protection and safety," Woyecha said.

French presidential frontrunner Alain Juppe told The Guardian that he will tear apart the Le Touquet agreement, the 2003 deal between France and Britain that allows UK border officials to carry out migration checks in France rather than Britain.


TRTWorld and agencies