French MPs urge UK to accept 'Jungle' camp minors


Calais (France) (AFP)

French authorities Saturday stepped up work to finish demolition of an almost deserted Calais "Jungle" as more than 100 French MPs urged Britain to accept unaccompanied minors who had been living in the squalid migrant camp.

Shortly after 8:00 am (0600 GMT), three huge diggers moved into place on the northern perimeter of the camp, until Tuesday home to 6,000 to 8,000 migrants, to sweep away debris from makeshift dwellings.

Many tents and shacks were ravaged in huge fires which broke out Wednesday at the camp, a stark symbol of Europe's migrant crisis.

Around a dozen riot police trucks were posted at the camp entrance, where skips were in place to take away piles of debris.

Officials aim to complete the clearance by Monday night and on Saturday morning there was little sign of life save for workmen and the police.

In Paris, more than 100 leftwing lawmakers sent a letter to British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, calling on her government to "immediately" take in unaccompanied minors from the Jungle who want to rejoin relatives in the UK.

The letter, a copy of which was sent to AFP by the deputy president of the National Assembly, Sandrine Mazetier, said 1,500 unaccompanied minors had been placed in safety in the provisional reception centre -- a container camp -- in Calais.

"(They) are not seeking any favours: they have the right, in line with current international regulations and British law, to go to Britain.

"Their transfer to Britain is urgent. We ask you to take up your responsibilities and to assume your moral duty in turn by immediately organising their arrival."

- 1,000 children -

Britain has taken in 274 children from the Jungle since mid-October, mostly youngsters with relatives already living in the country.

Britain's Help Refugees charity estimated that as of late Friday there remained over 1,000 unaccompanied children living in the container camp.

Children who had been told they were headed eventually for Britain to join family already there were getting ready on Saturday, hoping to be on their way later in the day.

Migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea, flocked to the camp near the northern port of Calais in the hope of making it across the Channel to Britain.

Clare Moseley, founder of British charity Care4Calais, was concerned for those who had left the camp and had dispersed across France.

"We are worried about what happens next -- there will be multitude of small camps where conditions are even worse than in the Jungle," Moseley said.

Many Calais locals fear the Jungle will simply spring back up again once the current clearance operation is over.

Senior regional official Jean-Francois Carenco said Friday more than 2,000 migrants were sleeping on the streets of Paris. But he denied that large numbers had been arriving from Calais over the past few days after slipping through the net.