Wednesday 24 January 2018

Refugees defying police in bid to stay in 'Jungle'

A French riot police officer stands by a shack set on fire during the demolition of the Calais
A French riot police officer stands by a shack set on fire during the demolition of the Calais "Jungle" camp, in Calais

David Chazan in Calais

Thousands of migrants yesterday vowed to defy orders to quit Calais, saying they would get to Britain "at any cost" as French authorities prepared to demolish the 'Jungle' camp.

Hundreds queued to be bussed to accommodation centres across France. Nearly 2,000 migrants joined the exodus on Monday, but charities said another 2,000 were determined to stay in the Calais area and try to slip across the Channel.

French immigration chiefs said the price for a passage to England had rocketed since the mass operation to remove asylum seekers from the port town began.

People smugglers are reportedly charging Africans €3,900 to put them in lorries bound for Britain, while Syrians are said to be paying up to €11,100 to cross in vans or boats.

Jaoued Belmir, the local representative of the French office for immigration and integration, told 'Le Parisien' newspaper it was leading to a situation where "most of them cannot find the money to pay the smugglers".

"The border with England has been sealed gradually, so prices have risen," Mr Belmir said.

Police in Calais
Police in Calais

He warned that French authorities were introducing a zero-tolerance policy towards migrants in Calais.

However, officials and charity workers expect about 2,000 migrants to "resist" the demolition of the 'Jungle' camp when bulldozers roll in, which is due to happen this week.

"They do not want to leave," said Christian Salome, head of the Migrant Shelter charity. "They will not abandon their dream of England."

At least 5,000 or 6,000 people remain at the camp, charity workers estimated, although police put the number at only 4,000.

"Right now the operation is going well because they are people who were looking forward to leaving. But we're more worried about the end of the week, when there will be people who do not want to go, and who continue to want to get to England," Mr Salome said.

Pierre Henry, head of another French charity, France Terre d'Asile, which has been helping home office staff register unaccompanied children eligible for resettlement in Britain, said: "There are a number who will resist. They want to get to Britain at any cost."

After the first day of the camp clearance operation on Monday, remaining migrants began protesting against French riot police and broke into spontaneous chants of 'UK, UK, UK!'

French workers began demolishing the 'Jungle' shanty town in Calais yesterday, wielding sledgehammers to tear down makeshift dwellings as former residents - migrants seeking entry to Britain - were moved out.

Police equipped with water cannons stood guard as hundreds of migrants - some of whom have lived in the scrubland for months or years - waited for buses to take them for resettlement across France.

"The migrants have known for a long time this was going to happen," the Calais region's prefect, Fabienne Buccio, said after arriving at the camp escorted by between 150 and 200 riot police.

"We are making sure it is done properly. We define an area, and then we go in."

Groups of young men who have fled war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, kept warm around piles of burning rubbish in the camp, a filthy expanse that has become a symbol of Europe's failed migration policies.

A large fire blazed at one point, but then appeared to be brought under control, and there was no repeat of the minor skirmishes with security forces seen over the weekend.

Officials said the operation was going peacefully.

For many of the migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and other conflict zones, the closure of the 'Jungle' marked the end of a dream to reach Britain.

"We know the Jungle is over," said Aarash, a 21-year-old Afghan as he made his way to the hangar where immigration officials were processing the migrants. "We will see if we can get on a bus today, but we want a good city, like one near Paris. If we can't go there we will come back to the Jungle."

On Monday, 40 buses took more than 1,900 mainly Sudanese and Eritrean men to accommodation centres across France.

Some 400 children are being temporarily accommodated in converted shipping containers in a fenced-off enclosure at the camp which will not be demolished.

Police now fear new shantytowns may spring up along the northern French coast. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News