This morning (Oct. 24) French authorities began evacuating the so-called “Jungle,” one of Europe’s largest migrant camps, which until today had been the temporary home to about 8,000.
The camp, in the northern port city of Calais, first appeared in 1999 as a waiting ground for people hoping to cross into Britain, and has since turned into a sprawling settlement with precarious living conditions. The growing migrant and refugee crises led the Calais camp population to reach 10,000, prompting both humanitarian concerns and anti-immigration actions.
Just last month, under commission from the UK, French authorities started building a wall that would block access from the camp to the highway that leads to the tunnel between France and the UK, with the aim of stopping migrants trying to perilously hop on trucks crossing into Britain.
The French government plans to begin demolishing the camp tomorrow, and, by Wednesday, to bus its residents to 451 immigrant shelters across several regions of France that have a total availability of 7,500 beds. Sixty buses are scheduled to leave today, with 50 more to run tomorrow and 45 on Wednesday.
All of the migrants from the Calais camp will go through processing before they get on the bus. The majority of migrants in Calais have the right to international protection, and will be provided assistance in the shelters as they try to make an official asylum request. Those that do qualify will likely be required to stay in France as refugees. Those who won’t qualify for will be considered economic migrants and likely will face repatriation orders.
Until today, the government’s involvement in the camp has been minimal; management was left mostly to volunteer humanitarian organizations. As the evacuation of the camp approached last night there were clashes between the police and some of the camp residents who wanted to stay. However, the French paper Libération reports (link in French) the operation has largely been peaceful so far, and care has been made to ensure children are granted the special treatment required by international humanitarian laws (pdf).
The action to evacuate has drawn some criticism as an anti-migrant act, but it also has found support among some residents of the camp, many of whom are tired of living in such precarious situations.