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Calais migrants face eviction, but 'have nowhere to go'

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Photos: AFP
15:32 CET+01:00
The deadline is approaching for as many as 3,000 refugees - although aid groups say the real number is far higher - to leave the southern part of the Jungle migrant camp near Calais

French authorities, who earlier this month declared “the time had come to move on” from the Jungle, have given those living in tents or huts until Tuesday 8pm to leave.

Initially they planned to move 1,000 migrants from the southern part of the camp, but it now appears they got their numbers wrong, with aid groups and charities say over 3,000 are facing eviction including 300 unaccompanied children.

The same aid groups who were previously calling for the camp to be dismantled are now calling on authorities not to evict the migrants, simply because there are not enough safe alternatives lined up.

Local government chief Fabienne Buccio said he hopes not to have use force "if everyone plays their part" but with migrants unwilling to move, the fear is that clashes may occur.

The question aid groups and migrants are asking is where will the migrants go?

"Around 500 to 1,000 migrants will just disappear because there is nowhere for them to go," Michel Janssens from the charity Medecins sans Frontieres told The Local on Monday. 

"It's not human to do that. We are not fighting for them to keep the camp but for the occupants to be given adequate and humane lodging," Janssens added.

"All this will do is see hundreds end up living in clandestine camps."

That was the case before authorities in Calais forced all the migrants to move to the "New Jungle", which stands on a former toxic waste dump.

'We have nowhere to go'

In theory the forced evacuation is against French law, which states that no one can be booted out of accommodation during wither months.

There are believed to be around 300 places available in the new welcome centre built next to “the Jungle” which offers more sheltered accommodation in converted shipping containers (see photo).

The sheltered accommodation that has a capacity of around 1,500 in total has not proved popular with refugees who have criticized the lack of communal quarters.

The alternative option for refugees and migrants is to accept to be placed in one of the 102 refugee centres around France.

But that would effectively mean being moved far from Calais and giving up on the hope of making it to the UK, which many refugees are simply not prepared to do.

There is also the problem of capacity. Authorities believe 2,600 refugees have already been relocated in these centres around the country and there is not be space for many more.

“We have nowhere to go. If they evacuate us it would cause a real problem,” one Afghan refugee told BFMTV.

Aid groups like the charity Auberge des Migrants fear that families moved out of the southern part of the Jungle will simply end up living in even worse conditions, where they cannot receive any humanitarian aid.

Christian Salomé, president of the Auberge des Migrants, says one week is far too short notice to make so many people leave and find alternative accommodation.

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They are desperately hoping the deadline can be pushed back and have lodged an appeal against the decision. A verdict is due on Tuesday.

Medecins Sans Frontiere's Janssens laments the way French and British authorities have handled the ongoing crisis. 

"It's shameful. It's not just the French but the British. Only Angela Merkel has really opened the doors to refugees, most of whome are fleeing war, he said.

"Most have already risked their lives to get here, they are not going to stop until they reach Britain."

In an earlier statement, the Calais town hall claimed it was acting in response to "abuses" committed by migrants that had led to "an aggravated level of tension" in recent weeks.

It said camp residents were throwing stones and other projectiles at lorries and security forces on a daily basis, but also condemned members of far-right groups who loiter outside the Jungle to beat up migrants.

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