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France dismantles Calais migrant camp, 7000 inhabitants to be resettled

The French authorities, helped by more than 3,000 police, have begun to dismantle a massive migrant camp near the northern French port of Calais.

There were some clashes on Sunday (23 October), with dozens of people throwing rocks at police officers, who replied by shooting tear gas.

But on Monday morning, many of the camp’s estimated 7,000 inhabitants calmly queued at reception points.

They were convinced by French authorities to give up on attempts to get to the UK, and agreed to be taken to refugee centres all around France where their asylum requests will be examined.

Some 2,400 people are due to leave the camp on Monday in 60 buses. The camp’s population will be gone in three days if the clearance goes as planned.

Bulldozing will start on Tuesday.

The only ones who can stay in Calais are children. Earlier this month, charity organisation France Terre d’Asile found that there could be as many as 1,291 children in the camp, most of them unaccompanied and wishing to go to the UK.

They will be lodged in a makeshift reception centre for the next two weeks.

French authorities say they want British counterparts to commit to taking all children with links to the UK.

Britain has a legal duty to do so under the Dublin regulation, and the camp’s flattening puts pressure on Britain’s Home Office to meet its legal duties.

Last week, more than 200 children left Calais to reunite with their families in Britain.

Just as many could follow in the next few days.

Earlier this year, the UK also committed to taking a number of lone migrant children. The first 54 children to benefit were taken across the Channel on Sunday.

The remaining children will apply for asylum in France.

Calais, a port town located close to the Eurotunnel, has seen various migrant camps develop and being flattened by the authorities since a first reception facility was set up in 1999.

The number of migrants trying to get to the UK has increased steadily in the last months. Their presence has become increasingly contested by France’s right-wing politicians, who have demanded that the camp is moved to the UK.

French president Francois Hollande vowed to close the camp in September, saying it was a humanitarian emergency.

Aleksandra Eriksson/EUObserver

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