New migrants arrived at the “Jungle” camp despite the start of its demolition yesterday, as the mayor of Calais warned the town’s crisis was far from over.
Workers finally moved in to pull apart the squalid site amid tense stand-offs between protesters and armed riot police.
However, Natacha Bouchart, the centre-Right mayor, warned the demolition was having little impact, saying: “Migrants are continuing to arrive in Calais even today.”
Ms Bouchart watched as a mechanical digger scooped up debris from the the first few makeshift wooden huts to be dismantled by workers wearing orange boiler suits and white hard hats.
About 2,000 people were bussed out of Calais on Monday and the mayor said she hoped another 2,000 would be gone by the end of Tuesday.
“Our fear today is that about 3,000 migrants still in the camp who are not agreeing to go could cause clashes with the security forces,” Mrs Bouchart said.
“For the last three years life has been hell in Calais. This is not the end but it is a step forward. When the government says it will clear all migrants out of Calais, it is a lie. This is happening during the campaign (for the presidential election in six months).” The site was pulled apart as a row over funding for accommodation simmered in Britain.
One in four local authorities–including Theresa May’s local council of Windsor and Maidenhead–has not accepted unaccompanied refugee children, it emerged.
Leicestershire County Council said it had “disengaged” from the voluntary scheme because of concerns that it would cost the council up to £2.05 million from its own resources.
Meanwhile, it emerged Gary Lineker–the BBC presenter who sparked a row over comments about the crisis on Twitter–will attend an event today “standing in solidarity” with refugee children to put pressure on the Government to help more.
Model Lily Cole, the actress Oona Chaplin and singer Sophie Barker will also attend the Love In Action Have a Heart gathering at the Millennium Bridge in London.
At the Jungle yesterday, plumes of black smoke rose from two fires started in protest against a huge police operation to clear the camp.
At one site, youths blocked firemen who wanted to extinguish the flames, but both blazes died down after a few minutes.
Mrs Bouchart complained that France and the European Union were failing to tackle the migration crisis effectively and lacked “a regulatory framework to guarantee that there will be no more migrants’ camps in Calais.” She said some migrants were likely to try to establish other camps or squats elsewhere in the Calais area.
Amid a warren of dirt tracks between huts and tents where the migrants have lived in squalor while making repeated attempts to cross the Channel illegally to settle in Britain, an Afghan man loaded bundles of possessions into a white van, driven by a British volunteer.
“We are going to the next Jungle,” said the man, who gave his name as Ali. The volunteer declined to be identified.
As the demolition got under way, dozens of Eritrean and Ethiopian women aged between 17 and 30 marched past, chanting “We want asylum in England.” Hundreds of the camp’s children are being accommodated temporarily in converted shipping containers in a fenced-off enclosure at the camp, which will not be demolished for the time being.
A French interior ministry spokesman said: “We do not want to use force but if there are migrants who refuse to leave, or NGOs who cause trouble, the police might be forced to intervene.”
A helicopter flew overheard this morning as scores of CRS riot squad vans surrounded the perimeter of the camp.
Water cannon have been positioned outside the camp.
Police and social workers asked migrants queuing to bussed to accommodation centres to sit down. Officials said they wanted to avoid jostling and scuffles which broke out on Monday. Some in the queue complained that the ground was muddy.
Almost all of the up to 10,000 migrants who have been living in the squalid camp want to claim asylum and begin a new life in Britain. They have been trying to get aboard ferries and trains illegally.
Migrants have been congregating in the Calais area for more than 20 years, but the French authorities say they are now determined to eradicate all migrants’ camps in the region.