Europe

EU migrants: Calais Jungle protest causes huge disruption

  • 5 September 2016
  • From the section Europe
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Media captionA long line of tractors and lorries brings traffic to a near-standstill near the Eurotunnel entrance in Calais

A blockade of lorries in conjunction with a human chain on the roads around the French port of Calais has caused severe disruption.

The protesters, among them Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart, are demanding the closure of the "Jungle" migrant camp, saying it undermines the town.

More than 7,000 people now live there, in squalid conditions. Many of them try to jump on lorries to reach Britain.

The blockade of the A16 road was lifted in the evening.

Eurotunnel tweeted that the demonstration had now ended and that its passenger service "continues to operate normally in both directions".

Monday's protest appeared to be the largest local people have held against the Jungle.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hundreds of people gathered to form a human chain
Image copyright PA
Image caption Farmers also participated in the protest

Ms Bouchart said the situation was becoming unbearable.

Those living in the camp, who are mainly from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa, hope to cross the Channel, often using people traffickers to try to enter illegally.

Shopkeepers, police, unionists and farmers joined hauliers in staging the blockade on the highway near the port.

A member of the farmers' union, Co-ordination Rurale, told the Press Association news agency that farmers in the area were suffering, as migrants dumped rubbish, trampled crops and knocked down fences.

"The camp must go," he said. "They cannot get to England so why are they allowed to stay here?"

Nicolas Lotin, director of a haulage firm in Boulogne-sur-Mer, told Agence France Presse: "We ask ourselves every morning if our work day is going to be wasted, if a migrant is going to rip the truck's tarpaulin."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Lorry drivers began their protest by driving slowly along dual carriageways and motorways

Antoine Ravisse, president of the Grand Rassemblement du Calaisis, a coalition of businesses, said the protesters wanted assurances from the government that the roads around Calais would be made safe again.

"It's unacceptable that today in France you can't travel without fear and without the certainty that you won't be attacked," he said.

Unaccompanied children

Earlier this year, demolition teams dismantled huts in the camp as part of an effort to close it down. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Sunday that the government still intended to shut the camp.

Media captionThe mayor of Calais said the situation had become unbearable

Last week the UK and France pledged to work together, increasing security at the port of Calais, improving the humanitarian situation for the thousands of homeless people there, and returning illegal migrants who were judged not to be in need of protection to the countries they came from.

A few days later, campaigners said they had identified nearly 400 unaccompanied children in the camp who were eligible to move to the UK. They urged the UK government to take those children in. The UK has already committed to giving 150 children a home in 2016.

One Sudanese asylum seeker inside the camp told the BBC he was saddened by the way local people viewed them, and said all the migrants wanted was to live in peace after escaping from conflict.

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