UK Halts Resettlement of Child Refugees Amid Calais Camp Demolition
Oct 30 2016 by Desiree Burns
French authorities began the evacuation of a so-called, "Jungle" migrant camp Monday after a weekend of riots.
Long queues formed earlier outside reception centres in the camp as the French authorities worked to determine whether individual refugees and migrants were with family members or travelling alone, and whether they were deemed to be vulnerable.
Volunteers in Calais say the only lasting solution would have to come from Britain where most migrants want to go.
Refugee advocates are particularly concerned about what will happen to an estimated 1,300 unaccompanied minors living in the camp.
Alain Juppe, the centre-right front-runner in next year's French presidential election, has called for Britain's border with France, which was extended to Calais under a 2003 accord, to be moved back to British soil. That solution, is key, he said, because the informal camp in Calais is "part of a wider phenomenon". During previous evictions of Calais, upwards of 100 children went missing and over 30 have already been reported as missing today.
Refugees have been living in the area in various arrangements for about 17 years, but the camp had grown massively in size during the current European refugee crisis.
Yesterday, a series of buses took the first to leave to 450 centres across France.
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Armed French police on Monday began "clearing" out the Jungle refugee camp in Calais after months of planning by the French government to demolish the camp.
On Sunday, flyers were distributed telling migrants in text and pictures to show up at a hangar near the camp.
Authorities say the camp, known as the jungle, holds almost 6,500 migrants who are seeking to get to Britain. This follows overnight violence where police fired tear gas at a group of protesters over the closing of the camp.
"We should have put more pressure on the United Kingdom to taken in unaccompanied minors", said François Guennec of Auberge des Migrants.
"We've been asking authorities for weeks and weeks for information and we only started getting it a few days ago", she said, from inside the now abandoned camp. According to the Interior Ministry, 7,500 beds will be made available in temporary asylum centers across the country for evicted Calais migrants.
It will allow the closure of the largest shanty town in France, which has grown up over the last 18 months, filled with refugees - mostly from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea - seeking to cross the Channel to get to Britain. The country has prepared more than 400 centers to take in the thousands of migrants and refugees.
France's government has billed the enormous operation to clear the camp as "humanitarian". "I think it's to be expected that as they start to raze the Jungle, that you're not going to have as much peacefulness", she says.