Mi­grants in this doomed camp fear jun­gle out­side

Re­set­tle­ments from French site be­gin Mon­day

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES | WORLD - By Elaine Ganey

CALAIS, France — Mi­grants prayed, plot­ted and played soc­cer to­gether Sun­day, a day be­fore France starts clear­ing them by the thou­sands from a makeshift refugee camp that is doomed for de­struc­tion.

But the scene that would pass for nor­mal on an­other day at the slum-like camp in the north­ern port town of Calais nick­named the “jun­gle” was any­thing but rou­tine.

On Mon­day, 60 buses are set to trans­port 3,000 mi­grants to re­cep­tion cen­ters scat­tered around France. By week’s end, the camp is to be emp­tied and de­stroyed.

“To­mor­row the jun­gle is fin­ished. You know it, right?” En­rika Kareivaite, a vol­un­teer with aid group Care4Calais, told a group of asy­lum seek­ers. Po­lice and vol­un­teers will be on hand, she said, “and we will ask you to leave with us to­gether, OK?”

The evac­u­a­tion of at least 6,486 mi­grants — aid groups have es­ti­mated 8,300 — has been in the works for two months and is ex­pected to take a week. It is un­fold­ing as a com­plex bal­let of lines, in­ter­views, and bus rides to the un­known.

The peo­ple at the camp, who will be al­lowed to pick two re­gions of a coun­try they don’t know as their in­tended des­ti­na­tion, were just learn­ing the de­tails Sun­day.

“The ob­jec­tive has been reached. We have more than 7,000 places. We have a place for ev­ery­one,” Calais So­cial Co­he­sion Di­rec­tor Serge Szarzyn­ski said Sun­day.

But most mi­grants en­coun­tered were un­aware of how the op­er­a­tion was to pro­ceed and un­sure where their next land­ing place would be. Aid groups and of­fi­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions still were putting out word that the camp’s days were num­bered.

Some peo­ple stay­ing at the camp said they fear end­ing up in un­wel­com­ing vil­lages with few eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Tariq Shin­nari, a 26-year old Iraqi who has ap­plied for asy­lum in France, said camp res­i­dents who want to end up in the United King­dom are more wor­ried than those who hope to re­main in France.

Calais lies on the French side of the English Chan­nel, and mi­grants who have tried to board fer­ries and trucks mak­ing the cross­ing have re­peat­edly been turned back.

French au­thor­i­ties ex­pect mi­grants and refugees bound for re­lo­ca­tion cen­ters in France to seek asy­lum in the coun­try.

“Yes, we will live start­ing to­mor­row some­thing ex­cep­tional,” said Fa­bi­enne Buc­cio, the high­est state of­fi­cial in the Pas-de-Calais re­gion.

The camp that sprang up 18 months ago near the Calais port is home to a pop­u­la­tion that fled wars and other crises, from Syria and Afghanistan to Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The heart of the chaotic camp has been a church built by Ethiopi­ans. With two crosses that dom­i­nate the land­scape, it of­fered hope for the faith­ful, in­clud­ing those who at­tended a spe­cial hour ser­vice on Sun­day.

“This is a spe­cial ser­vice. The peo­ple are re­ally fear­ing,” Salamin, a man who acts as church keeper and ac­tiv­ity plan­ner, said. Like many oth­ers on the cusp of the un­known, he gave only a sin­gle name.

THIBAULT CAMUS/AP

Many at a mi­grant camp in Calais, France, were un­sure Sun­day of their next des­ti­na­tion.

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