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French court delays 'Jungle' migrant camp eviction

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Photo: AFP
08:27 CET+01:00
A French court said on Tuesday it was delaying its ruling on the demolition of half of the refugee camp in Calais known as the "Jungle", just hours before a deadline for residents to be evacuated.
"We will not know today," said a source in the court in the northern city of Lille, adding that a decision was not now expected until Wednesday or Thursday.
   
Emotions were running high in the "Jungle" on the outskirts of the northern port city of Calais, where many residents had refused to leave despite a 7pm deadline to vacate the southern half of the camp.
   
The issue has played into the fraught discussions about Britain's possible exit from the European Union, with France under pressure to stop refugees trying to board lorries and ferries to cross the Channel.
   
Some British opponents of "Brexit" say they would lose the ability to call on France to stop the flow of refugees if Britain were to leave the EU.
   
Local authorities had said the demolition of the makeshift houses in the southern section of the camp would begin on Wednesday.
   
But charities working in the Jungle have challenged the eviction order, and a magistrate visited the camp early on Tuesday to assess the situation.
   
She was initially due to announce a verdict later in the day, but this was delayed.
 
   
Many residents appeared to be standing firm.

Story continues below…

   
"I don't have anywhere else to go," said John, a 28-year-old Sudanese migrant.
   
"We don't want to leave Calais because we don't want to get further away from England, which is still our goal."
 

"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. 

"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."

The state wants to eventually reduce the population of the Jungle to 2,000 people.

Those being pushed out of the camp can go to one of around 100 accommodation centres elsewhere in France, or into refitted shipping containers set up nearby.

The containers have not proved popular with migrants, who say they lack communal spaces and restrict their movements, while local charities say they fail to meet international standards.

Conditions in other camps along the northern French coast are even more dire than those in the Jungle.

The French authorities have been gradually trying to shut down the Jungle, encouraging residents to head for proper centres elsewhere in France.

However, many of the residents have family or community ties to Britain and are reluctant to give up their dream of crossing the Channel.

A campaign spearheaded by celebrities such as actors Jude Law and Benedict Cumberbatch has called on the British government to let children from the camp be reunited with families in Britain and take responsibility for the "humanitarian crisis" in the Jungle.

Calais town hall has claimed the eviction is 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.

On Monday, six migrants were each given a month in prison for occupying a ferry in northern France in a protest calling for Britain to allow asylum seekers in.

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