Migrants

Migrants moved on as police dismantle makeshift camp in Calais

French police during an earlier evacuation of migrants from the northern port city of Calais.
French police during an earlier evacuation of migrants from the northern port city of Calais. AFP

French security forces have dismantled a migrant camp on the outskirts of the northern port of Calais. The camp had been home to hundreds of people hoping to travel across the Channel to Britain.

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Local political fiugures, including the mayor of Calais, had called for the closure of the temporary camp in abandoned industrial buildings, in the wake of recent violence and fears of a semi-permanent settlement developing.

The operation involved hundreds of police officers on Friday morning. The evacuated migrants, most of them young males, will be offered places in shelters.

"Thank you to the security forces who took part in the operation and to the agents who are working on providing shelter," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted, adding that the operation had been launched at his initiative and with judicial approval.

Last weekend, 568 people made the sea crossing from France to Britain in warm, calm weather, according to the British interior ministry.

So far this year, more than 3,500 people have crossed the Channel by boat, according to British figures, while French authorities have stopped many others in patrols on land and at sea.

Calais has long been a magnet for migrants and refugees who travel there in the hope of reaching Britain, either by stowing away on trains or ferries, or, more recently, by taking to the water in dinghies and small boats.

 A notorious camp known as the "Jungle" --- which was home to about 10,000 people at its height -- was demolished in 2016 by French police.

Residents complain about rubbish and crime

Local residents in Calais complain about rubbish and crime, while occasional outbreaks of violence in the camps, often between different nationalities or ethnic groups, require police interventions.

Campaign groups and NGOs working in Calais say migrants are left by authorities to live in miserable conditions, without access to basic sanitation or food, and are routinely harassed by security forces.

François Guennoc, head of the Auberge des migrants group which provides aid, said dismantling of the camp will make no difference.

"In any case, people move, they go somewhere else. It's an endless journey," he told the French AFP news agency. "Everyone is turning in circles: refugees, authorities and associations."

Guennoc estimates that around 1,500 migrants and refugees are in Calais at the present time, including 800 in the camp dismantled on Friday, which was in former industrial buildings near the town's hospital, southeast of the centre.

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