As of yesterday the French government started to clear 3,000 adults and children from the centre of Calais as part of a 3-day operation to close the camp names 'the Jungle' for good. This would mean relocating up to 10,000 refugees to specialist accommodation centres across France and the UK to complete registration and processing.
Jean-Marc Puissesseau, the chief executive of the Port of Calais called Monday’s action “the D-Day” and told reports he was “very, very happy” with the progress. Refugees were organised into four queues – adult, families, children and vulnerable or disabled – each given a different colour of wrist band.
A lot of refugees were happy to leave the camp, including 23-year old Mohamed who travelled from Eritrea who spoke to reporters saying: “The camp is dirty and very dangerous.” After 3 months of living in the camp he plans to remain in France to get Asylum.
Many were happy to leave. Among them Mohamed, 23, from Eritrea, who said: “The camp is dirty and dangerous.” He had been there for three months, he told the Guardian, and had tried to get asylum in France before entering Calais.
“My fingerprints were taken in Italy and wherever you go in Europe after that they say you have to go back to Italy under the Dublin regulation. Now they say for the first time the fingerprints don’t matter and we can start applying for asylum again. I am happy.”
One migrant, Yusef had hopes to make it to the UK but he told reporters his dream “died in Calais”, he trusts France with keeping him safe and also feels that he can contribute to society once he has settled in the nation.
Before the clearing of Calais begun, even some hours beforehand many refugees were still attempting to reach the UK. “We have yet to convince some people to accept accommodation and give up their dream of Britain, that’s the hardest part.” said Didier Leschi, head of the French Immigration Office.
Some were concerned that if they joined the queue to be processed, they would not be able to join family in the UK. Tafsu, 48, a carpenter from Eritrea, has a wife and two children in London, including a nine-year-old daughter he has never met. “I don’t know what the future holds. I want to explain my case but I can’t get heard,” he said.
Charity organisations in the area including Care4Calais predict the camp is likely to regrow even after demolition. A member of the charity organisation stated: “I think people will still come. With refugees, deterrents don’t matter because a refuge by definition is fleeing something. In February, they demolished over half the camp and yet here we are, seven months later, with a camp bigger than it’s ever been.”
Issues have been raised over the fate of around 1,300 children in the camp. Yvette Cooper, Home Affairs Committee member, said she felt many children were still at risk by people traffickers. “That’s what’s really worrying, because once the clearances start we know there is a significant risk that many of those children and young people just disappear,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
Over the course of the past week around 200 children have been sent to the UK from the camp. The media have been concerned about the ages of some of the arrivals, the eldest of which is 18 years old.
On Sunday evening an additional 24 child refugees reached the UK after being evacuated from Calais along with 54 unaccompanied minors – most of whom were female, originating from Eritrea – these were the first to be bought into the UK under the Dubs amendment, as part of a government pledge to assist unaccompanied minors.
Robert Goodwill, Immigration minister also spoke with reports, telling them the government remains committed to watching over the children from the Jungle and transporting “all eligible minors” that have the rights to access the UK as soon as they can. He stated: “We are working closely with our French partners and the immediate priority is to ensure those who remain in the camp are provided with secure accommodation during the clearance operation. UK officials will continue to identify those eligible to come to Britain.”
With a police force of up to 3,000 within the camp and around Calais, refugees who refuse to claim asylum are expected to develop smaller camps across France.
As many as two thirds of migrant surveyed within the camp say they don’t want French accommodation with a third saying they plan to get into the UK. This research was completed by the Refugee Rights Data Project.
While this may make the journey across the border easier for haulage operators
with a disbanded camp this could make any stops in France much more dangerous for drivers as there will be no way of knowing where or when there may be attempts to sneak inside vehicles, especially at stops such as lay-bys. With the increased security at the Calais border and the Jungle no longer active it may become more difficult for migrants to illegally enter the UK.