Elia Vaissiere and Bernard Barron, Agence France-Presse, September 29, 2020
French police on Tuesday dismantled a camp of about 800 migrants in the port city of Calais, the biggest such operation since the sprawling “Jungle” shantytown was broken up four years ago.
Calais continues to attract migrants from the Middle East and Africa who set up makeshift camps along France’s northern coast from where they hope to make the passage across the English Channel to Britain.
Since January 1, French authorities have intercepted at least 1,317 migrants as they tried to reach the UK, some by swimming across the busy waterway.
Tuesday’s operation started before dawn and had evacuated more than 600 people in 30 buses by the afternoon, according to local authorities, who added that 34 people were detained.
According to Le Franc, it was the biggest dismantling of a Calais camp since the Jungle was cleared of some 9,000 migrants between 2015 and 2016.
The Pas-de-Calais prefecture said there were about 500 tents at the site, with conditions posing “serious problems of security, health and tranquility”, particularly for staff and patients of a nearby health centre.
The evacuated migrants will be brought to reception centres in Pas-de-Calais, other departments in northern France, and other regions of the country.
By far the majority of the migrants are men, mainly from Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq and Eritrea.
French authorities have vowed to avoid a new incarnation of the Jungle — which at one point held as many as 10,000 people — but camps have continued to spring up as migrants flee war and poverty at home to seek a better life in Europe.
Rights associations said the operation was pointless.
Maya Konforti of the Auberge des Migrants (Migrants’ Hostel) group said the evacuated foreigners would be back “within days”.
The government estimates that about 1,000 migrants live around Calais, while support groups say the number is closer to 1,500.