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Migrants, aid groups anxious over clearing of Calais 'Jungle'

Charities said they're worried about the safety of minors and vulnerable adults ahead of the dismantling of the French migrant camp. Police fired smoke grenades as people grew angry at the "Jungle's" impending closure.

French and British aid organizations have complained about the lack of information about next week's planned closure of the migrant camp known as the "Jungle."  

Their warning came as French police clashed with migrants on Saturday night at the camp in the northern French town of Calais.

British charities and lawmakers have written to French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve highlighting what they said were "very serious worries concerning the security and well-being of unaccompanied minors and vulnerable adults."

The signatories, which included the NGOs Save the Children, the Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee UK, wrote that "the resources currently being deployed … are insufficient to ensure the effective protection of the most vulnerable, notably unaccompanied children."

The letter warned that a poorly organized camp clearance would put already at-risk people into an even more precarious situation.

The Calais Jungle

Thousands of migrants live in what aid agencies say are appalling conditions in the Calais "Jungle"

The "Jungle," which houses several thousand migrants mainly from the Middle East and Africa has seen its numbers swell in recent months. The migrants head to Calais hoping to reach Britain by ferry or Channel Tunnel train

Many of those arriving in Calais are severely traumatized after escaping conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, psychologists say. Most have described being exploited by people traffickers and many have risked their lives by traveling thousands of kilometers to the French port town.

Closure to begin Monday

France said that it will begin dismantling the camp on Monday and that officials have arranged a "humanitarian" operation to transfer those staying in the makeshift facility to migrant reception centers around the country and abroad.

French teacher Michel Abecassis said many migrants "don't know exactly where (the) reception centers are located" or "how many people there will be."

Johannes Maertens, a Benedictine monk who has helped support Calais migrants for several years, said there's uncertainty over the fate of many minors who want to go to Britain but may be refused entry.

Violence feared

Anxious at the lack of information, a group of about 50 migrants reportedly threw stones and bottles at officers on Saturday evening, who responded with smoke grenades, British media reported.

Tensions have risen in the camp since its demolition was announced, and there were violent protests when authorities dismantled one section of the "Jungle" earlier this year. Migrants complain about a lack of information.

Migrants leave the Jungle

Some migrants have begun moving ahead of the dismantling of the Calais "Jungle"

Leaflets were due to be distributed on Sunday, telling migrants to report to a hangar, from which they will be transferred to reception centers where they can apply for asylum.

Some people have left

Over the past few days, the first unaccompanied child migrants have been transferred to Britain. Around 100 migrants left the camp on Saturday, while another 50 were due to leave on Sunday.

"Monday I take the bus!" said Sudanese national Kali, who has stayed at the "Jungle" for some time.

But some others are skeptical whether the camp will be dismantled as planned.

"We'll see on Monday; I don't believe it," said one Afghan man, who runs a food shop in the camp.

Another Afghan shopkeeper, when asked what he would do after the camp was torn down, just said, "I will go to the next Jungle."

mm/sms (AFP, AP)

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