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Bulldozers start clearing 'jungle' refugee camp in French coastal town of Calais

French officials have deployed bulldozers protected by riot police to demolish parts of the migrant camp in Calais. The refugees, aided by volunteers, had already abandoned sections of the so-called 'jungle.'

French authorities aim to create a 100-meter buffer zone between the Calais camp and the nearby motorway, and thus make it harder for the migrants to sneak onto trucks headed to England.

The clearing effort started on Monday, after days of efforts to remove the makeshift shelters from the buffer zone. Two of the bulldozers were reportedly set on fire on Friday night.

According to varying estimates, between 500 and 1,500 refugees had been living in the area set for clearing. Some of them moved to different sections of the Calais "jungle" while others took shelter in the newly built camp of heated containers.

'They won't let us leave'

Many of the migrants, however, refused to move to the new facilities. The French officials demanded migrant palm prints to be recorded before entry, and the refugees feared that the security measures would prevent them from leaving France.

"They think we are stupid and we will give them fingerprints to stay in the new camp," Syrian refugee Mohammed Shakh told Deutsche Welle ahead of the clearing.

"It is like a jail there. They won't let us leave after we enter and I never want to live in this country," he added.

The camp holds around 4,000 people in total. Most of the refugees hope to travel to Dover, by crossing the Eurotunnel connecting France and the Great Britain.

"Plan A is truck to England. Plan B is train to England. Plan C is boat to England," according to Shakh.

The clearing effort would proceed "in the migrant-free areas," and is expected to last at least two weeks, French authorities say.

dj/jm (AFP)

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