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French officials: Calais camp 'empty'

October 26, 2016

French officials have said they completed work to get all people out of the migrant camp near the northern city of Calais. A handful of migrants forced to leave the shantytown had set parts of the camp alight overnight.

Frankreich Jungle von Calais wird demontiert
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/T. Camus

Two days into a week-long operation, French authorities have transported thousands of migrants from what residents and others call the 'Jungle' - a potent symbol of Europe's migrant crisis - to reception centers around France.

"The camp is finally empty," Fabienne Buccio, the official heading the Pas de Calais administration told French broadcaster BFMTV on Wednesday.

"Our mission has been accomplished," she added.

Migrants were still seen around the area after the announcement, but French authorities said they would stop processing people by Wednesday evening.

Located only several hundred meters from the port of Calais, 'the Jungle' has long been a launchpad for migrants wanting to go to Britain on lorries or trains heading across the Channel.

"This jungle is no good," said Muhammad Afridi, 20, from Pakistan told the Associated Press news agency. "We go to a new jungle."

Calais Räumung
One man was reportedly injured when fires broke out in the camp overnight and on WednesdayImage: Reuters/P. Wojazer

Fires blaze amidst demolition

Fresh fires broke out on Wednesday in the camp as demolition crews worked to clear the shantytown. A team of about 15 workers tore down tents and makeshift shelters at the camp after riot police had cordoned off the demolition area and aid workers and government officials checked that the dwellings were empty.

Firefighters reportedly dealt with flames in shelters and small shops in the camp that has been used as a temporary home by 6,300 migrants, according to authorities. Aid groups, however, counted more than 8,000 people.

Both migrants and officials said the fires which blazed through the camp overnight and on Wednesday were set deliberately.

A Syrian man sustained injuries to his eardrums after a gas canister exploded in the flames and was taken to the Calais hospital as around 100 migrants were evacuated on Tuesday night to a no-man's land at the entrance of the camp, Steve Barbet, spokesman for the regional prefecture, said on Wednesday.

Relocations around France

Since Monday, 3,242 adults have been transferred to centers around France and 772 unaccompanied minors have been moved to shipping containers converted into temporary shelters in the Jungle, the interior ministry said. This is around half the camp's estimated population before the operation began, according to official figures.

The authorities have said those who agree to be moved can seek asylum in France. Those who refuse risk deportation. The fate of more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors is of particular concern.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Tuesday that all those "with proven family links in Britain" would be transferred and that London had committed to reviewing all other cases where it was "in the child's interest" to settle across the Channel. Britain took in around 200 teenagers in the week before the clearance began.


rs, jbh/kl (AP, AFP, Reuters)