Calais 'Jungle' cleared of migrants, French prefect says

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Fire breaks out in the Jungle camp as migrants prepare to leave while the authorities start to demolish the site on 26 October 2016 in Calais, FranceImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
France says the three-day operation has cleared migrants from the Jungle

France says that it has completed an operation to move thousands of migrants out of the "Jungle" camp in Calais.

Fabienne Buccio, the prefect of Pas-de-Calais, said it was "mission accomplished" for the operation, which began on Monday.

But charities said many unaccompanied minors had not been processed and BBC reporters at the camp said groups of adults remained.

Fires burned at the camp overnight and during the day amid the clearance work.

The camp has become a key symbol of Europe's migration crisis, with its residents desperate to reach the UK.

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Since the start of the week, French authorities have been bussing thousands of people to shelters and centres where they will be able to seek asylum.

The operation has gone faster than expected and on Wednesday afternoon Ms Buccio said: "It's the end of the Jungle, our mission is over. There are no more migrants in the camp."

Media caption,

The demolition operation started on Tuesday afternoon

Local officials say so far 4,404 migrants have been taken to centres around the country and 1,200 children registered to enter a temporary centre made out of converted shipping containers near the camp.

Processing is continuing in the camp, reports say, but will end by this evening.

The camp had an estimated 6,000-8,000 residents. The BBC's Simon Jones, who is there, says it is possible a large number have disappeared, either to sleep rough around Calais or go to other towns.

The authorities fear they will return to set up camp again once the clearance operation is over.

Image source, AP
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Shelters at the camp are being pulled down

Dorothy Sang, of Save The Children, meanwhile, told the BBC that hundreds of children had not been able to register and enter the area for minors.

"When there were fires raging in the camp, the camp was cleared, but the registration process for children was closed, and the containers were full. So there was literally nowhere for children to go," she said.

Many had run away, she added, and their whereabouts were unknown.

A BBC reporter also spoke to a group of around 100 unaccompanied minors inside the camp who British charity workers said had nowhere to go.

British MP Yvette Cooper said she was deeply concerned at reports children were being turned away from the container camps and urged French authorities to open up emergency accommodation.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
It was unclear who set the dozens of fires that blazed overnight and through the morning

"Smoking embers" - by James Reynolds, BBC News, Jungle camp

Fires have left the centre of the settlement charred and uninhabitable. French firefighters are now putting out the smoking embers.

Many areas of the camp are now largely deserted. In muddy fields, warrens of tents remain standing and empty.

I saw a small number of migrants who were in no hurry to leave. One group of half a dozen men was sitting down to dinner at a table next to a tent. But I also saw several other migrants carrying their bags towards the buses that will take them away from this region.

At the same time, the French authorities are allowing many hundreds of unaccompanied children and teenagers to remain inside the camp as planned.

The minors are being housed in several orderly rows of white shipping containers surrounded by a fence. I saw groups of teenagers playing football, and others sitting on an embankment.

Overnight, huts were set on fire on the main street leading into the camp, leaving makeshift shops in ashes. More fires were ignited during the day, but it is not clear who started them.

Ms Buccio told local media it was "a tradition among the migrant population to destroy their homes before leaving".

However the Calais police commissioner said he had been told by migrants that the fires were started by activists.

One man was reported to have been injured when a gas canister exploded in the flames.

More than 1,200 police officers have been deployed for the clearance operation at the camp, which is unpopular locally and has required a large security presence to prevent migrants reaching the UK on lorries or trains heading across the Channel.

What is the Jungle?

  • The Jungle camp is near the port of Calais and close to the 31-mile Channel Tunnel
  • Officially about 7,000 migrants live in the camp. The Help Refugees agency said the final population ahead of its demolition was 8,143
  • The camp was halved in area earlier this year but the population continued to rise, and reports of violence have increased
  • Many migrants attempt to hide themselves in cargo vehicles entering the Channel Tunnel
  • The area has been hit by protests from both locals and truck operators

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

Are you in the area around Calais? Have you been affected by the clearing of the camp? Have you been a volunteer or worked at the camp? Let us know about your experiences. Email with your stories.

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