'Jungle' migrant camp in France to be cleared Monday

AFP , Friday 21 Oct 2016

French police post the official document that announces the dismantling of the makeshift camp called the "Jungle", in Calais, France, October 21, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

The local administration "made a legal order Friday that is to take effect on Monday", it said in a statement announcing the long-awaited operation.

Migrants at the camp in the ferry port of Calais will board buses at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) to take them to nearly 300 temporary accommodation centres dotted round France.

The demolition of the sprawling makeshift camp closes a difficult chapter in Europe's migrant crisis.

The camp has strained relations between France and Britain, the country most of its residents are trying to reach.

The process of clearing the Jungle officially begins on Sunday when officials and charity workers will pass through the settlement of shacks and tents to inform residents that they will have to leave.

The order from the local authorities informing residents that the camp is about to close was displayed from Friday in several languages.

"The aim is to give everyone a roof over their heads and we will do everything we can to make that happen," one official said.

The current Jungle camp dates from April 2015 and housed more than 10,000 migrants at its peak, although that number has dwindled to around 5,000 in its final days.

Migrants were attracted to Calais because it is a key departure point for Britain, where some have family links and many believe they have a better chance of finding work.

Their persistent efforts to climb on to trucks heading across the Channel aboard ferries or trains have led the authorities to build a wall to keep them off the main road leading to the ferry port.

The Jungle residents are mainly from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea.

For many, the camp embodies the failure of European governments to deal with the influx of migrants.

Calais residents and businesses have called for months for the camp to be razed.

But the fate of around 1,000 unaccompanied minors has delayed the camp's closure.

British authorities are allowing those with family links in Britain to settle there, but just 52 had been transferred across the Channel by Thursday.

More than 300 have been interviewed by British officials.

Authorities said the minors will not be bussed away from the camp but remain there in more permanent accommodation while their cases are considered.

But even when the Jungle is cleared away, some wonder whether another camp will simply spring up elsewhere.

Alain Juppe, the frontrunner to win the right-wing nomination in next year's French presidential election, called Friday for the scrapping of the agreement between Britain and France that allowed the camp to exist.

Complaining that the Jungle gave a "disastrous" image of France, Juppe called for the Le Touquet accord -- which extends Britain's border to Calais -- to be torn up.

"We cannot accept making the determination on French territory of which people Britain does or doesn't want. It's up to Britain to do that job," he said in an interview with several European newspapers.

In the camp this week, the remaining residents appeared resigned to their fate.

Mewagul Daulatzai, 22, from Afghanistan, who had just five cans of mango juice left for sale in his small wooden shop, told AFP on Thursday he would be happy to leave.

"Before I liked the Jungle. I had my friends and we were working here. But now it is too dangerous here so I am glad it's over," he said, sitting in a canteen that was still dishing up steaming plates of Indian-style pilau rice, chicken, vegetables and naan bread.

A legal advisor for the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Lucie Lecarpentier, said the camp was "really tense" but her team had urged residents not to panic.

"We tell them not to run away and to stay calm," she told AFP.

"I think some are so determined to go to the UK they will stick around here."

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