French authorities dismantle new Calais migrant camp

French authorities dismantle new Calais migrant camp
2 min read
The head of the region and mayor of Calais had both called for the temporary camp in abandoned industrial buildings to be broken up because of recent violence and fears of a new semi-permanent settlement developing.
Calais is a magnet for refugees looking to reach Britain. [Getty]

French security forces dismantled a new migrant camp on the outskirts of the northern port of Calais on Friday which was home to hundreds of people hoping to travel across the Channel to Britain.

The head of the region and mayor of Calais had both called on Thursday for the temporary camp in abandoned industrial buildings to be broken up because of recent violence and fears of a new semi-permanent settlement developing.

The operation involving hundreds of officers on Friday morning, which saw the mostly young, male migrants offered places in shelters, came amid a sharp rise in crossings of the Channel by boat this year.

"Thank you to the security forces who are mobilised and to the agents who are working on providing shelter," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted, adding that the operation had been launched at his initiative and with judicial approval.

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Last weekend, from Friday to Monday, 568 people made the sea crossing from France to Britain in warm, calm weather, according to the British interior ministry.

So far this year, more than 3,500 people have crossed the Channel by boat, according to British figures, while French authorities have stopped many others in patrols on land and at sea.

Calais has long been a magnet for migrants and refugees who travel there in the hope of reaching Britain, either by stowing away on trains or ferries, or latterly by taking to the water in dinghies and small boats. 

A notorious camp known as the "Jungle" - which was home to about 10,000 people at its height - was demolished in 2016 by French police.

Local residents in Calais complain about rubbish and crime, while occasional outbreaks of violence in the camps, often between different nationalities or ethnic groups, require police interventions.

Campaign groups and NGOs working in Calais say migrants are left by authorities to live in miserable conditions, without access to basic sanitation or food, and are routinely harassed by security forces. 

Francois Guennoc, head of the Auberge des migrants group which provides aid, said the dismantling of the camp would make no difference.

"In any case, people move, they go somewhere else. It's an endless journey," he told AFP. "Everyone is turning in circles: refugees, authorities and associations." 

He estimated around 1,500 migrants and refugees were in Calais at the present time, with around 800 in the camp dismantled on Friday, which was in former industrial buildings near the town's hospital, southeast of the centre.