Monday, October 24, 2016

Calais 'Jungle' Demolition: Hundreds of Migrants Abandon Bus Queues and Head Back to Camp After Processing Delays
David Chazan, Calais  James Rothwell  Rory Mulholland
24 OCTOBER 2016 3:07PM
Telegraph, UK

Thousands of people have been loaded onto buses outside the squalid Calais migrant camp and taken to asylum centres dotted around the French countryside in a bid by the government to shut down the so-called 'jungle' once and for all.

Aid agencies had warned that some migrants could try to resist being relocated, though there were only a handful of minor scuffles with police on Monday morning.

Hundreds of migrants who grew frustrated with lining up for the buses headed back to the camp later in the day, complaining that they were not being processed quickly enough.

The major three-day operation sought to clear the sprawling shanty town near the Calais port - a symbol of Europe's failure to resolve its migrant crisis - of its estimated 6,000 - 10,000 occupants.

About 60 buses were used on Monday to take up to 3,000 people to asylum centres in Haute Savoie, Haute Loire, l’Isère, Drôme and Saône et Loire.  

On Tuesday, 45 buses will come for a further 2,500 people, and on Wednesday 40 buses for around 2,000 people.

It comes after riot police came under attack on Sunday night from migrants protesting the camp's closure, who hurled rocks and lit fires.

French police have also warned that a group of British anarchists are attempting to disrupt the operation.

"Considering activists from hard-Left group No Borders have arrived in the Calais area and have set up home in squats, there is a high risk the activists have penetrated the camp with a view to influencing the migrants as they did in March," a police spokesman for the Calais region said.

Police say they have set up a total of 12,000 homes for migrants in Calais around the country, though they estimate the camp's current population to be around 8,000 people. Aid workers say it could be far higher.

Up to 200 members of the "No Borders"  group  arrived in the camp over the weekend, according to a senior local official.

Fabienne Buccio, the Calais prefect, said access to the camp was being heavily regulated to prevent activists from stoking violence inside.

"I don't know where these buses will take us but I want to get to England. My aunt lives there," said Samuel Haptom, 16, from Eritrea.

 Adel Moussa, 17, from Sudan, said he had no family members in Britain but was still hoping he would be allowed to start a new life in the country.

Most of the youngsters have spent long months living in the squalor of the Calais camp.

As officials and charity workers spread out across the Jungle on Sunday distributing flyers about the camp's impending demolition, some were still clinging to hopes of a new life across the Channel.

"They'll have to force us to leave. We want to go to Britain," said Karhazi, a young Afghan among many of the migrants who had their hearts set on Britain, believing it to offer better prospects.

"We have yet to convince some people to accept accommodation and give up their dream of Britain. That's the hardest part," Didier Leschi, head of the French immigration office OFII told AFP.

Hundreds of migrants are returning to the Jungle camp, frustrated at being made to queue for more than four hours to be bused to accommodation centres elsewhere in France.

"It should be managed better," said Shakram, 17, an Afghan migrant.

"We have a lot of patience but this is not right. These people have agreed to go but why are they not being dealt with faster?"

The Telegraph's Rory Mulholland has captured this footage of more scuffles breaking out near the camp.

Mohammed, 36, who served as a major in the Afghan army, stayed in the caravan that has been home for him, his wife and two sons aged 9 and 7 for the past 10 months.

"We've been told we can stay here until Wednesday," he said.

"We will try to stay in the Calais area. We have close relatives in Manchester, my wife's mother and brother. They are British citizens and we are determined to join them. Britain is better than France for our family."

Mohammed said they fled Afghanistan because the Taliban threatened to kill them unless he agreed to take suicide bombers into the army base where he worked as an instructor.

"We've tried to get to Britain 35 times but every time the police stopped us," he said.

Ashran, 24, also from Afghanistan, said he would not leave Calais.

Sipping a plastic cup of coffee in a clearing among tents, he said: "I'm not getting in any bus. I want to go to England," he said in fluent English.

"You see these people getting on the buses today? In a couple of weeks they'll be back in Calais, maybe not in this jungle but in another one."

Ashran said he had managed to reach Britain but was arrested and sent to Italy, the first European country he entered, where he was fingerprinted.

He said he had tried dozens of times to get back to the UK.

"I've been inside trucks, on top of trucks. But every time they catch me."

Some 2,000 migrants streamed out of the Calais "jungle" camp on Monday as riot police surrounded the shantytown, due to be demolished this week.

By 9-30 am, the migrants, mainly young men from Eritrea and Sudan, had made their way to a temporary bus station set up outside the camp.

From there they will be taken to accommodation centres in other parts of France.

British officials shepherded a group of children through the crowds before their transfer for resettlement in the UK, where many of them have relatives.

There was sporadic clashes during the night, with piles of rubbish set ablaze by some migrants.

Police fired tear gas to disperse troublemakers but the situation this morning is largely peaceful and the mood good humoured.

"I don't know where these buses will take us but I want to get to England. My aunt lives there," said Samuel Haptom, 16, from Eritrea.

Other teenagers queuing to leave were from Sudan and Ethiopia.

 Adel Moussa, 17, from Sudan, said he had no family members in Britain but was still hoping he would be allowed to start a new life in the country.

Most of the youngsters have spent long months living in the squalor of the Calais camp.

A helicopter flew overhead and scores of riot police vans surrounded the perimeter of the camp, where between 6000 and 10,000 migrants have been living.

The French authorities say there are about 6,400 but charities claim there are more than 10,000.

The majority are hoping to claim asylum in Britain. They have been trying to board ferries, lorries and trains illegally.

Migrants have been congregating in Calais for more than 20 years, but the French authorities now believe they can clear the Calais area of all camps.

A small group of protestors, including some activists from Britain, gathered outside the camp this morning, but were outnumbered by police.

Natacha Bouchart, the Mayor of Calais, said she was ‘relieved but also worried’ about the operation to clear and demolish the camp, describing it as "Europe's largest shantytown".

The authorities expect it to take a week.

She confirmed that members of a left wing British group called No Borders are in the northern French port town, expressing fears that they were planning to attack the police.

About 1,250 officers are being deployed to empty the camp before bulldozers roll in.

When part of the Jungle was demolished in March, fighting broke out with police.

Fires were lit across the camp, while water canon and tear gas was used to hold back mobs of activists and migrants.

Young Afghan men have already been seen smashing up the makeshift cafes, shops, and restaurants that have sprung up in the Jungle. They tried to set some of them on fire.

 Migrants who refuse to leave the Jungle face arrest.

They are being instructed to report to officials at the temporary bus depot where they can choose to be transferred to the Bordeaux region in south-western France, or Brittany.

About 60 buses are to take up to 3,000 people on Monday, with 45 buses on Tuesday, for 2,500 people, and on Wednesday 40 buses for 2,000 people.

This will continue throughout the week.  Unaccompanied minors living in the Jungle will be processed separately and interviewed by British officials.

Pierre-Henry Brandet, a spokesman for the French interior ministry, tells  La Voix du Nord: "This morning's success shows that the initiative was well prepared.

"The hardest thing from now on is persuading the migrants who don't want to leave the camp to do so in the coming days."

A joint survey carried out by Help Refugees and Auberge des Migrants has found that the population of the camp has dropped by 20 per cent - but the number of unaccompanied child refugees has increased.

The number of unaccompanied child refugees has shot up from 1022 to 1291 in recent months, according to the aid agency.

It added that today alone at least 3,000 people would be displaced from the camp, with thousands more to follow in the coming days.

Rather than apply for asylum in France, most have preferred to head to Britain for a variety of reasons, writes Adam Plowright.

Some have family networks there, while others are attracted to Britain's reputation as a more economically vibrant country. The English language is also a big draw.

As the evacuation approached, more and more residents began seeking asylum in France, seeing it as the only way to avoid deportation.

Conditions are bleak. Sanitation is limited and illnesses spread easily. Women and children risk sexual violence, while brawls and deadly road accidents are commonplace.

For the local economy, repeated targeting of trucks has seriously disrupted traffic at the port and Channel tunnel.

Locals complain about the image of their town, and Calais bars and restaurants say trade has been severely hit. Protesters blocked roads in September to demand the camp's closure.

The conditions have also drawn criticism from the United Nations and charities, embarrassing the French government.

In 2003, the two countries signed the so-called Le Touquet accord, which effectively moved Britain's border with France to the French side of the Channel.

Much ink has been spilled over the French government's plan to disperse the Calais camp's estimated 10,000-strong population among smaller asylum centres dotted around the country.

They have reportedly set aside up to 12,000 places for migrants from the so-called 'jungle' - but details as to where exactly these centres are has been fairly scant.

The exact locations are now emerging in the French press - local newspaper La Voix du Nord says the buses arriving in Calais today are headed for centres in Haute Savoie, Haute Loire, l’Isère, Drôme and Saône et Loire.

They are mainly rural locations, most of which will house between 100 and 300 migrants according to Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister.

Up to 200 members of the "No Border" British anarchist group who are opposed to the destruction of the so-called 'jungle' arrived in the camp over the weekend, according to a senior local official.

Fabienne Buccio, the Calais prefect, said access to the camp was being heavily regulated to prevent activists from stoking violence inside.

"In total, there must be between 150 and 200 No Borders activists in the camp," she said.

"We know that many of them arrived this weekend. We have already turned back activists at the border, we can do this."

It comes after  Giles Debove, a police union spokesman, said forces "will have to be very vigilant" when tackling the anarchists.

Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Home Affairs select committee, has just BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

"They are right that the camp needs to be cleared and it should never have lasted this long, when it is dangerous and squalid. It could never be an answer to the refugee crisis that Europe has faced.

"There has been a concern though that we need to make sure people have a place to go, in particular the children. The French authorities have not put in proper alternative arrangements to make sure the children are somewhere safe.

"It is quite shocking that this could have gone on for so long with criminal gangs building up a base and desperate refugees not getting the help and support they need.

"There are children who have family in the UK who could be looking after them. They are still stuck in Calais today and that is really worrying. Once the clearing starts there is a significant risk that many of those children just disappear.. the consequences are that they slip into the arms of traffickers and gangs.

"We also passed the Dubs amendment back in May so that Britain could help lone children. It is right that Britain does its bit."

Asked about the prospect of the British border moving back across the Channel under a new French government, she said: "I don't want to see that happen. I don't think it will help the process. I think having the border controls in Calais has helped and it is something we should try and retain, but there has to be a plan between Britain and France to help these children and teenagers."

The Home Office is facing anger from a rural community in Devon for failing to tell them they are hosting up to 70 unaccompanied migrant teenagers from Calais.

As police fired tear gas into crowds of migrants in the Calais “Jungle” on the eve of the the planned closure of the squalid camp, a "respite facility" near the market town of Great Torrington, about 25 miles from Bude, is set to welcome some of the first arrivals under the "Dubs amendment", which grants refuge to the most vulnerable.

However, one local community leader said the choice of location was "bizarre" as he claimed Government and council officials had failed to consult the town's 5,000-strong population.

"We are a very tolerant, accommodating community but that is a very large amount of people," said Nick Hallam, secretary of the Great Torrington Cavaliers, which has won The Queen's award for voluntary service.

Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, says she is confident the demolition of the camp will go ahead "smoothly."

But she also said heavily armed security were ready to deal with troublemakers.

'We have tried to plan for everything. This is a big operation...but I am confident that 90 per cent will make the right decision and accept a place at a reception centre in another part of France.

The first bus has arrived in Calais, picked up a group of refugees, and set off again for an asylum centre in central France.

Groups of migrants have gathered at sunrise with the few belongings they have to wait for buses which will take them to new reception centres dotted around France.

"I feel very happy, I've had enough of the Jungle," 25-year-old Abbas from Sudan told 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.

Not everyone wants to go - thousands are expected to simply flee the camp during the demolition, sleeping in the streets of Calais before eventually returning to the 'jungle."

Some say they will simply move on to other smaller migrant camps in northern France, such as the "Grande-Synthe" camp, which houses around 2,500 migrants. 

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