France mov­ing more than 6,000 mi­grants, de­stroy­ing huge camp

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Lines of mi­grants with their lives in small bags walked to a reg­is­tra­tion cen­ter in the French port city of Calais Mon­day, the first day of the mass evac­u­a­tion and de­struc­tion of the filthy camp they called home.

French au­thor­i­ties are be­gin­ning a com­plex, ma­jor op­er­a­tion to shut down the makeshift camp, up­root­ing thou­sands who made treach­er­ous jour­neys to es­cape wars, dic­ta­tors or grind­ing poverty and dreamed of mak­ing a life in Bri­tain.

Un­der the eye of more than 1,200 po­lice, the first of hun­dreds of buses ar­rived to be­gin trans­fer­ring mi­grants to re­cep­tion cen­ters around France where they can ap­ply for asy­lum. The camp will then be lev­eled in a week­long op­er­a­tion. Ho­tels and even cas­tles are among the hun­dreds of cen­ters of­fi­cials have been con­vert­ing to mi­grant hous­ing.

Au­thor­i­ties say the camp, known as the jun­gle, holds nearly 6,500 mi­grants who are seek­ing to get to Bri­tain. Aid groups say there are more than 8,300.

The harsh re­al­ity of the move hit mi­grants on Mon­day. Some were happy to leave, oth­ers were con­fused or in shock.

Afghan Im­ran Khan, 35, risks ex­pul­sion if he ac­cepts the French plan to move him to a re­cep­tion cen­ter, be­cause his fin­ger­prints were taken in an­other Euro­pean coun­try. Un­der Euro­pean rules, he must be sent back to the coun­try where he first reg­is­tered. “I will de­cide to­mor­row (what to do),” he said.

Khan lives in a filthy tent, one of hun­dreds that are ex­pected to be de­stroyed by the end of the week as their oc­cu­pants de­part, grad­u­ally clos­ing down the camp that sprang up be­hind an of­fi­cial shel­ter hous­ing women and pro­vid­ing show­ers and daily meals.

Unac­com­pa­nied mi­nors, many with fam­ily mem­bers in Bri­tain, were to be housed on-site in con­tain­ers set up ear­lier this year as their files are stud­ied in Lon­don to see if they qual­ify for a trans­fer across the English Chan­nel. The hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion France Terre d’Asile says 1,291 unac­com­pa­nied mi­nors live in the camp.

One 16-year-old Eritrean, Daniel, was head­ing to the reg­is­tra­tion cen­ter with his cousin, also an unac­com­pa­nied mi­nor. “I’m not happy be­cause it’s fin­ished, the jun­gle. I want to go to the U.K.,” he said. In Calais for eight months, he said he has tried daily to jump on trucks head­ing across the English Chan­nel to Bri­tain, like other mi­grants in the camp. “I don’t want France,” he in­sisted.

Four­teen mi­grants have died this year in the Calais area.

The un­of­fi­cial camp, which sprang up 18 months ago, was pre­vi­ously tol­er­ated but given al­most no state help. Aid groups, and hun­dreds of Bri­tish vol­un­teers, have pro­vided ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties. It de­volved into a slum town where ten­sions bub­bled, friend­ships formed and smug­glers thrived.

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