France to clear ‘Jungle’ migrant camp Monday

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The local administration “made a legal order Friday that is to take effecton Monday”, it said in a statement announcing the long-awaited operation.

Migrants at the camp in the ferry port of Calais will begin boarding 145 buses at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) Monday to take them to nearly 300 temporary accommodation centres dotted round France.

The demolition of the sprawling makeshift camp closes a difficult chapter in Europe's migrant crisis.

The camp has strained relations between France and Britain, the country most of its residents are trying to reach.

On Sunday, officials and charity workers will pass through the settlement of shacks and tents to inform residents that they will have to leave.

The order from the local authorities informing residents that the camp is about to close was displayed from Friday in several languages.

“The aim is to give everyone a roof over their heads and we will do everything we can to make that happen,” one official said.

The current Jungle camp dates from April 2015 and housed more than 10,000 migrants at its peak, although that number has dwindled to around 6,400 in its final days.

Migrants were attracted to Calais because it is a key departure point for Britain, where some have family links and many believe they have a better chance of finding work.

Their persistent efforts to climb on to trucks heading across the English Channel aboard ferries or trains have led the authorities to build a wall to keep them off the main road leading to the ferry port.

The Jungle residents are mainly from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea.

For many, the camp embodies the failure of European governments to deal with the influx of migrants.

Minors await their fate

Calais residents and businesses have called for months for the camp to berazed.

But the fate of around 1,000 unaccompanied minors has delayed the camp's closure.

British authorities are allowing those with family links in Britain to settle in the UK.

By the end of the weekend, the week's total number of children transferred to the UK was expected to have reached 200, according to the France Terre d'Asile charity.

The head of the charity, Pierry Henry, told AFP that 73 minors had travelled to Britain on Friday and more than 100 were due to follow on Saturday.

More than 500 have been interviewed by British officials to discover their ages and details of family members in the UK.

The ages of those migrants who have reached the UK has been the subject of a bitter row and sensational headlines there, as some photographs have given rise to claims that adults may be posing as minors to gain entry.

One British MP, David Davies, has called for testing of teeth to determin eage, sparking outrage from the medical community.

Authorities in France said the minors remaining in France will not be bussed away from the camp but stay there in more permanent accommodation while their cases are considered.

But even when the Jungle is cleared away, some wonder whether another camp will simply spring up elsewhere.

'Disastrous' image of France

Alain Juppe, the frontrunner to win the right-wing nomination for next year's French presidential election, called Friday for the scrapping of the agreement that extends Britain's border to Calais, effectively allowing the camp to exist.

Juppe said the Jungle gave a “disastrous” image of his country, and that Britain should conduct its evaluations of the migrants on its own soil, not in France.

In the camp this week, the remaining residents appeared resigned to their fate.

Mewagul Daulatzai, 22, from Afghanistan, who runs a small shop, told AFP on Thursday he would be happy to leave.

“Before I liked the Jungle. I had my friends and we were working here. But now it is too dangerous here so I am glad it's over,” he said.


Frenchwoman on trial for helping migrant lover sneak into Britain

A former supporter of France's anti-immigration National Front (FN) goes on trial Tuesday for helping her Iranian migrant lover smuggle across the Channel to Britain.

Frenchwoman on trial for helping migrant lover sneak into Britain
Photo: Calais Mon Amour
sneakBeatrice Huret faces possible jail time if convicted of helping Mokhtar — whom she met while volunteering at the since-demolished “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais — slip out of France under cover of night, on a rickety boat.
The 45-year-old is one of several people around France who have been charged with illegally assisting migrants in recent months. While none have been imprisoned, a farmer was recently hit with a 3,000-euro ($3,300) fine.
Huret's lawyer told AFP she would ask the court in the coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer to dismiss the case, insisting her client acted for “humanitarian reasons.”
She will be tried alongside three others accused of being part of a smuggling network, some of whose members allegedly acted for financial gain.
Photo: AFP
'Love at first sight'
Huret's journey from FN sympathiser to alleged people smuggler began on a cold day in February 2015 when she gave a lift to a young Sudanese migrant travelling to the squalid Jungle.
Before that, she had lived “a basic life” and voted FN like her husband, a border police officer who died of cancer in 2010.
Seeing the conditions in the Jungle gave her a new perspective on the plight of the thousands of migrants who flocked to Calais over the past decade in the hope of stowing away on a lorry bound for Britain.
“It was a shock to see all these people wading around in the mud,” said Huret, a dark-haired woman with kohl-rimmed eyes, told AFP in an interview earlier this month.
She began volunteering at the camp soon afterwards and a year later met 37-year-old Mokhtar, who was among a group of Iranians who sewed their mouths shut in protest over the demolition of the southern half of the makeshift camp in March 2016.
When they first met, he spoke English but no French and her English was at best rudimentary. “It was just 'hello, thank you, goodbye', so I didn't speak to him immediately,” she said.
“He got up to get me some tea. You got a sense of someone who was very gentle, very calm and then his look… it was love at first sight,” said Huret.
With the help of Google Translate the pair struck up a relationship and after a few months he came to stay with her, her 76-year-old mother and 19-year-old son while continuing to seeking passage to Britain.
After a failed bid to stow away on a lorry crossing the sea, Mokhtar enlisted her help in another, desperate plan.
She agreed to buy a small boat for 1,000 euros ($1,119) and on June 11, 2016 towed it to a beach from which he and two friends took off across the treacherous Channel.
The boat sprung a leak en route but the trio arrived safely after being rescued by the British coastguard.
Huret, however, soon found herself in trouble. Two months after the crossing, she was arrested and charged with being part of a migrant smuggling network.
Race for film rights
“I brought a boat to a beach. That's it. I did it out of love… I didn't profit from it,” she wrote in “Calais Mon Amour”, a book about their romance for which several film-makers are vying to acquire the rights.
The couple have kept up their relationship over the past year, with Huret regularly crossing the Channel to visit Mokhtar in the northern English city of Sheffield where the former teacher has obtained a work permit.
She is one of several people to appear in court in recent months charged with illegally assisting migrants who have travelled up through Europe after crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy boats or stowing away in trucks travelling overland from Turkey.
Since demolishing the Jungle camp in October French authorities have taken a stern line on illegal migration, accusing activists who provide assistance to homeless foreigners of creating a “pull” effect.
In February, a 37-year-old olive farmer in southern France was put on trial for helping African migrants cross the border from Italy and giving them accommodation.
Cedric Herrou was let off with a suspended fine of €3,000 ($3,300) but was re-arrested last week for continuing to assist migrants seeking shelter.