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Calais migrants to be dispersed

September 24, 2016

French President Francois Hollande has said 9,000 places are to be created around the country for migrants living in Calais. In a TV interview, he said the 'Jungle' camp would be dismantled.

The Calais "Jungle" migrant camp
Image: Getty Images/AFP/P. Huguen

Hollande told the French news channel "i-Tele" on Saturday that the thousands of migrants currently living in the huge shantytown at Calais in northern France would be dispersed across the country.

He said French authorities were making available around 9,000 places at "reception and orientation centers" in other parts of the country.

The migrants are to be split into groups of 40 to 50 people for a limited period of three to four months, Hollande said.

Those who fit the asylum criteria are to be allowed to stay in France, while those who do not will be deported, the president said.

Hollande, who visited one of France's 164 migrant reception centers in the central city of Tours, said conditions in the Calais camp were "extremely difficult," especially for those who fled war to get there.

Hollande said the goal was to fully dismantle the Calais camp, which has been nicknamed the "Jungle," and which was partially demolished earlier in the year.

The French leader is due to visit the coastal town on the English Channel - La Manche on Monday.

His comments came despite criticism from many conservative and far-right politicians, who have argued that France has already welcomed tens of thousands of migrants from Syria.

The Calais migrant camp
Shipping containers are used to house Calais migrantsImage: Reuters/P. Rossignol

The "Jungle" houses thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East, many of whom regularly attempt to climb onto trains and trucks heading to Britain via the ferry port or Channel Tunnel.

Migrants have been amassing around Calais since the late 1990s, forcing a two decade-long wrangle between France and Britain on how to handle the people.

The two countries have signed several agreements which have seen British border controls move to the French side of the English Channel, while Britain has also helped pay for security upgrades to areas around high-speed rail tracks and the port.

A new wall is currently being built to prevent migrants gaining access to ferries illegally.

But over the past year, the number of migrants waiting at Calais has grown, in part due to the wider European migrant crisis. Their attempts to cross to Britain have become more daring and often dangerous, leading to regular clashes with authorities and local residents.

About 7,000 migrants still live in the remaining sections of the "Jungle," which is an increase from 4,500 in June, according to local authorities. But humanitarian groups say the number is more like 9,000.

mm/jm (AP, Reuters)