France em­barks on trans­fer of thou­sands from ‘jun­gle’

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Elaine Ganley

CALAIS, France — Car­ry­ing their be­long­ings in bags and suit­cases, long lines of migrants waited calmly in chilly tem­per­a­tures Mon­day to board buses in the French port city of Calais, as au­thor­i­ties be­gan evac­u­at­ing the squalid camp they call home.

French au­thor­i­ties were be­gin­ning a com­plex op­er­a­tion to shut down the makeshift camp known as “the jun­gle,” up­root­ing thou­sands who made treach­er­ous jour­neys to es­cape wars, dic­ta­tors or grind­ing pover- ty and dreamed of build­ing new lives in Bri­tain.

Closely watched by more than 1,200 po­lice, the first of hun­dreds of buses be­gan 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 hun­dreds of build­ings of­fi­cials have been con­vert­ing to mi­grant hous­ing.

“This is an op­er­a­tion we want to be peace­ful and un­der con­trol. So far it is,” French In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve said in Paris.

Au­thor­i­ties say the camp held nearly 6,500 migrants seek­ing to get to Bri­tain. Aid groups say there were more than 8,300.

The ram­shackle camp in north­ern France has been home to migrants from Afghanistan, Su­dan, Eritrea, Syria and else­where.

Throngs of migrants lined up at the reg­is­tra­tion cen­ter where they were sep­a­rated by cat­e­gory, like fam­i­lies, un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors or adults.

A group of Su­danese got tired of wait­ing and re­turned to their spot in the camp, bags slung over their shoul­ders and laugh­ing. Migrants from the Calais camp known as “the jun­gle” arrive Mon­day at a shel­ter in Lyon. They said they’d try again on Tuesday.

But ba­sic in­for­ma­tion was lack­ing for many. “What should I do?” asked a 14-year-old newly ar­rived Afghan.

Mah­moud Ab­drah­man, 31, from Su­dan, pulled a black knap­sack from his shel­ter to prove that he was ready.

“It’s not good, the jun­gle,” he said, com­plain­ing of in­ad­e­quate food and wa­ter and filthy toi­lets shared by hun­dreds.

Ul­ti­mately, Ab­drah­man wanted one thing more than any­thing else.

“I need peace,” he said, “any­where.”

Of­fi­cials have said that there will be a solution for each mi­grant — though ex­pul­sion may be among them for those who don’t qual­ify for asy­lum. Mean­while, France will spend about $27 a day on each mi­grant in the re­cep­tion cen­ters, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials. It was not im­me­di­ately clear how long they will be al­lowed to stay.

Some doubt the camp’s dis­man­tling will end the mi­grant flux into north­ern France.

A 2003 French-Bri­tish ac­cord ef­fec­tively put the Bri­tish border in Calais, stop­ping migrants there and putting the onus on France to deal with their plight.

Var­i­ous camps have been set up in the re­gion of Calais since the 2000s. Now, some fear those de­ter­mined to cross the English Chan­nel will scat­ter and cre­ate ‘mini­jun­gles’ along the north­ern coast.

PHILIPPE DESMAZES/GETTY-AFP

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