Police fired tear gas into crowds of migrants in the Calais “Jungle” on the eve of the the planned closure of the squalid camp, amid fears that British anarchists would try to prevent the mass evictions.
The violence came as the Home Office faced anger from a rural community in Devon for failing to tell them they are hosting up to 70 unaccompanied migrant teenagers from the French port.
Fires burned in the sprawling shanty town as some refugees set fire to the wooden shacks that serve as homes or shops for the thousands who fled war or poverty in Africa or the Middle East.
Dozens of migrants threw stones at police deployed along the fence that runs along the road leading to the ferry port, and officers sporadically fired tear gas canisters to disperse them. Minutes later the cat and mouse game, which has become an almost nightly ritual, began again.
The unrest came after police warned that British anarchists from the No Borders group could seek to disrupt the evacuation due to begin today by encouraging migrants to resist the 1,200 police officers on duty to shepherd them onto buses that will take them to refugee centres across France.
Access to the area surrounding the Jungle was blocked from Sunday evening in a bid to keep potential trouble-makers from reaching the camp on the edge of the town, but many are believed to already be inside the camp.
The French government has said that the “Jungle” will be completely erased within a fortnight, but that goal was thrown into doubt after it emerged that the camp’s “canteen” that serves up to 3,000 meals a day will remain open until the end of the year.
A source in the charity La Vie Active, which runs the centre providing daily hot meals for camp dwellers, told The Daily Telegraph that all 140 staff were being kept on until the end of December and it would continue operations as normal until at least that date.
The manager of the venue, which is financed by the French government, did not immediately respond when contacted.
But Fabienne Buccio, the most senior official in the Calais region, confirmed that the centre, which also provides showers and medical aid, would “continue to operate for as long as necessary”.
François Hollande, the French president, said last month that he wanted the camp to be “completely and definitively” dismantled before winter. But despite the massive efforts being made to shut down the camp, it appears likely that many migrants, most of whom want to to get to the UK, will continue to flock to the port.
“I’m not getting on any bus tomorrow,” said Salman Afridi, a 22-year-old Pakistani. “They can arrest me but whatever happens I am coming back here. I will get to England.”
A survey of around 500 residents of the Jungle by the Refugee Rights Data Project, a charity, found that more than half of them plan to stay in Calais or sleep in the street even if the camp is torn down.
Some of the refugees have made it to Britain, raising questions over where they will be located.
A “respite facility” near the market town of Great Torrington, about 25 miles from Bude, is set to welcome some of the first arrivals under the “Dubs amendment”, which grants refuge to the most vulnerable.
However, one local community leader said the choice of location was “bizarre” as he claimed Government and council officials had failed to consult the town’s 5,000-strong population.