French security forces have dismantled a migrant camp near Calais that was home to hundreds of people who wanted to cross the Channel to the UK.
Officers broke up the camp, which was located in abandoned industrial buildings, early Friday due to violence and fears it could become a semi-permanent settlement like the infamous ‘Jungle’ camp that existed between 2015 and 2016.
Hundreds of police and gendarmes were involved in the operation, with the mostly young and male migrants being escorted to official reception centres.
It comes amid a surge in migrants moving from the continent to the UK, with some 4,500 crossing so far this year and more than 1,000 in the past week.
Police have broken up a migrant camp near the French city of Calais, which was home to an estimated 800 mostly male immigrants hoping to cross over to the UK
Agents put the migrants on buses so they could be taken to official migrant centers and their status assessed before deciding whether to send them home
French Interior Minister ordered the camp to be broken up after reports of violence there and fears it could become semi-permanent
A total of 201 made the crossing yesterday, according to Interior Ministry figures, as border guards use jet skis to stop them.
French officials say 171 people were able to make the crossing yesterday.
“Thank you to the mobilized security forces and to the agents working to provide shelter,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted after the camp broke up on Friday.
Calais has long been a magnet for migrants and refugees who travel there in hopes of reaching Britain, either by hiding in trains or ferries, or later taking to the water in dinghies and small boats.
An infamous camp known as the ‘Jungle’ – which at its peak was home to about 10,000 people – was demolished by French police in 2016.
Local residents in Calais complain about garbage and crime, while occasional outbreaks of violence in the camps, often between different nationalities or ethnic groups, require police intervention.
it comes five years after Calais’ infamous ‘Jungle’ camp – once home to some 8,000 migrants – was broken up by French police
The Calais Jungle emerged during the European migrant crisis of 2015 and was broken up the following year as leaders began tackling the problem
A French police officer watches as part of the Calais Jungle camp is destroyed in October 2016
Campaign groups and NGOs working in Calais say migrants are left by authorities to live in appalling conditions, with no access to sanitation or food, and routinely harassed by security forces.
Francois Guennoc, head of the Auberge des migrants group that provides assistance, said dismantling the camp would make no difference.
‘In any case, people are moving, they are going elsewhere. It’s an endless journey,” he told AFP. ‘Everyone is spinning in circles: refugees, authorities and associations.’
He estimated that there are currently about 1,500 migrants and refugees in Calais, and about 800 in the camp that was dismantled on Friday, which was located in former industrial buildings near the city’s hospital, southeast of the center. .
“Hundreds of migrants were identified at the site, including about 30 children,” local officials said in a statement.
The operation began around 6 a.m., with the migrants being taken to various reception centers in the region.
Authorities have repeatedly dismantled illegal campsites only to resurface them elsewhere within months.
Many of the migrants have fled to France from North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, fleeing countries ravaged by war and poverty.
The Calais camp was broken up amid record numbers of migrants entering the UK, with around 4,500 arrivals since the start of the year (photo, arrivals on Wednesday)
More than 1,000 migrants have reached the UK in the past week, including a group who filmed their crossing on TikTok
A border guard patrols the Channel on a jet ski as he arrives in Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident earlier Thursday morning