As desperate immigrants attempt to cross the English Channel and enter Britain, their last stop has been the Calais refugee camp, often referred to as the “Jungle” camp. As French authorities prepared to demolish the camp, they cited humanitarian reasons as well as putting an end to the limbo for more than 1,600 migrants.
As men, women, and children have fled war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Syria over the past year, France has been just one stop all across Europe for migrants and refugees to pause and consider. The migrants at this particular location are largely from the countries of Sudan and Afghanistan, according to reporting by the Washington Post.
While the Interior Ministry noted that it did “not want to use force” during the process, there were some worries that individuals might not go without a fight. Earlier this year, during an attempt to demolish the camp, officials had to use tear gas while some migrants threw rocks in response. During the current attempt, isolated scuffles did break out as the French government was planning to dismantle the camp’s structures.
Talks were held on Monday night between French officials and the UK Home Office in order to find resolution for chaos at the hangar site. This is the area where individuals wait for registration in order to move on to a different location. As children tried to make their way to the front of the line, officials had to manage the crowd and make decisions regarding who would go to Britain. In the end, the children became the priority.
The French ambassador to London, speaking to a radio program, noted that his government is “determined to stop people coming back to Calais.” After the refugees passed through the registration process on Monday, an estimated 8000 more were waiting to be processed. While children under the age of 18 have arrived in the UK recently, and hundreds more were expected, one-quarter of English councils are refusing to accept refugees who are seeking resettlement.
Using sledgehammers, French workers on Tuesday tore down structures while police stood by with water cannons. Meanwhile, migrants stood waiting for transportation to resettlement areas across the country. Some warmed themselves around piles of burning trash while others burned abandoned tents. Since the start of last week, a total of 4,014 individuals had left the area for other parts.
Even as the camp was being demolished, young Afghans spoke of going back to the “Jungle” if other options did not pan out. Some migrants relayed messages that they would stay in France long, and instead would “build another Jungle,”, according to Reuters. There were an estimated 1300 unaccompanied child migrants at the Calais camp. As the French government urged Britain to take part in housing the children, the Interior Minister said that his country would take about half of them.
The plan for the unaccompanied minors who remain after the current registration and resettlement includes temporary housing in shipping containers. While their claims are being processed, the living arrangements will be located just on the outskirts of the Jungle.