French officials are clearing “the Jungle” of its thousands of migrants and preparing to destroy the huge, dilapidated camp in Calais, in northern France, for good.
The operation began Monday and will continue for the next two days, as police and other officials load people onto buses and disperse its residents to other parts of France, where migrants will be housed in temporary shelters. Estimates put the number of migrants and refugees in the Calais camp at 7,000, including nearly 1,000 unaccompanied minors. Many of the occupants are from troubled regions of eastern Africa — Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia — and places like Afghanistan.
French officials are putting up 7,500 beds in a total of 450 centers across the country, reports the BBC. Arrivals can then apply for asylum and wait for approval. Those who do not qualify will be sent back to their home countries.
And once emptied of its occupants, the “Jungle” will be razed. Officials will begin tearing down tents and destroying ramshackle shelters Tuesday.
Hundreds have already been loaded onto buses and left the camp Monday — about 1,600 so far, reports The Guardian. Officials anticipate some will refuse to leave or try to return, though officials have said they will arrest anyone who resists. There were reports of some residents clashing with police overnight and as the buses were arriving.
The “Jungle” sprang up, and ballooned, in Calais because of its proximity to the entrance to the “Chunnel,” the English Channel route that connects France to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom was, and remains, the prized destination for migrants. Calais was the stopping ground that became permanent as people waited for the chance to smuggle themselves across the tunnel, sometimes paying a fee to hide in cargo trucks, or sneaking aboard, or underneath, those vehicles.
A 35-year-old pharmacist from Sudan, named Yusuf, told The Guardian that he had come to Calais to try to get to Britain: “But that dream died here,” he said. “That bridge is closed.” Like others, he has been forced to abandon the camp.
As mentioned, officials have put the number of kids and teens who are alone in the camp at close to 1,000. As Calais clears out, Great Britain is supposed to accept many of these kids under the Dubs Amendment. The rule, passed this summer, calls for Britain to accept unaccompanied migrant children in France, Italy, and Greece. Most of those relocated so far have had relatives in Great Britain, reports The Guardian, but aid groups said more than 50 girls, mostly from Eritrea, without family ties are to be brought to Britain from Calais.
French officials have torn down parts of the Jungle in the past. This coordinated effort is an attempt to sweep away the camp permanently.