Hundreds have started gathering at registration centers in the Calais “Jungle” camp as authorities begin an evacuation operation. Clashes broke out between migrants and police overnight in the northern French port.
Several hundred people lined up in front of official meeting points early Monday morning as French police began evacuating the refugee camp in the northern French town of Calais.
“I feel very happy, I’ve had enough of the Jungle,” Abbas, a 25-year-old from Sudan, told news agency AFP.
“There are a lot of people who don’t want to leave. There might be problems later. That’s why I came out first,” he added.
People carrying multiple suitcases and bags lined up “to take their chances in France,” reported DW’s Terri Schulz from Calais.
The migrants will be questioned starting at 8 a.m. (0600 UTC) before being redistributed around France, a spokesman for the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais told news agency dpa.
Some 6,000 to 8,000 migrants will be separated into four groups for families, single men, unaccompanied minors and others considered vulnerable. They will then board buses that will take them to nearly 300 shelters nationwide.
Police fired tear gas overnight as dozens of migrants hurled rocks and protested against the imminent demolition of the makeshift refugee camp.
The French government was to start evacuating the slum-like settlement early Monday, before sending the more than 6,500 people living there to official refugee shelters around the country. The operation to clear and then destroy the site is expected to take several days.
Around 1,250 extra police officers have been deployed to the area to maintain order.
New life in Britain
The camp at Calais is home to migrants from a range of crisis-hit countries, including Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. Most of them traveled to the French port in the hope of ultimately crossing the English Channel to get to Britain.
Aid workers told the German press agency dpa that many of the camp’s residents were reluctant to leave the area for an unknown part of France. Some have expressed fears about the possibility of ending up in unwelcoming villages with few work opportunities. Others, still determined to reach the UK, vowed to stay put in Calais.
Pascal Brice, head of the Ofpra asylum agency, said his staff were trying to convince migrants that Calais was a “dead end” and that their asylum requests at the refugee shelters in France would be processed “very quickly.”
The French government said unaccompanied minors would be allowed to remain at the Calais camp in modified shipping containers after the site is shut down. Almost 200 child refugees have beengranted passage to the UK as part of a fast-tracked process implemented one week ago.
rs, nm/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)