Demolition of Calais 'Jungle' continues, but where will occupants go?

The French plan to demolish a portion of the migrant camp in Calais resumed Tuesday. Where the occupants of the southern portion of the 'Jungle' will go after demolition is still unclear. 

REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
French CRS riot police group near burning shelter during protests by refugees and migrants occupying homes in the "Jungle," Feb. 29, 2016. France has started a plan to demolish the camp.

French efforts to dismantle the migrant camp in Calais resumed on Tuesday after a night of unrest.

Moving behind a front line of police, workers entered the migrant camp in the north of France and demolished shanty-town buildings by hand with bulldozers looming behind. On Monday, French police in riot gear had clashed with migrants and protesters. Remaining protesters have occupied roofs in the area, but no open conflict had been reported by Tuesday morning.

Last week a French judge approved the planned demolition of the southern portion of the migrant camp, which has become known as the Calais “Jungle.” A census conducted by the aid organization Help Refugees estimated that 3,455 people live in the affected portion of the camp.

Where will the occupants of the camp go after the demolition? Government officials and nonprofit groups disagree on the answer.

"This operation will continue in coming days, calmly and methodically, providing a place for everyone as the government has committed," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

French officials have stated that refugees from the “Jungle” have several relocation options. The government has built a new shelter out of converted shipping containers. Remaining occupants could relocate to other refugee camps that are scattered across France, which they said should offer a better standard of living.

“But as of two days ago, there were only 140 places left in the container camp, and yesterday there was just one bus,” Nico Steven from Help Refugees told the Guardian. “I’m not sure where people are meant to go.”

Many of the “Jungle” migrants have also not been given time to prepare or plan their relocation, say critics of the government action – little as one hour notice before the demolition of their property in some cases.

“They said they were going to be doing this slowly and gently – and with our cooperation,” Clare Moseley, the founder Care4Calais, an aid organization operating in Calais, told The Washington Post. “Let’s just say that has not happened.”

The Belgian government has also express concerns migrants will seek to leave France in response. The neighboring country has increased security at several border crossings with France in an effort to prevent “tent camps like Calais” in Belgium, according to Interior Minister Jan Jambon.

Although the method of removal and relocation of the camp has been criticized, the recent demolition is the result of months of political pressure for France to act on the Calais migrant camp.

The camp’s location has strained the valuable trade pipeline in Calais between Britain and France. Migrants desperate to cross the English Channel to the UK have damaged ferries and large trucks making the crossing. Truckers have reported bricks, blocks, and other dangerous items thrown at their trucks from bridges in the area, causing many British truckers to refuse to drive through Calais, according to the Telegraph.

Likewise, humanitarian pressure to address the "Jungle" grew exponentially after a September study by the University of Birmingham criticized living conditions in the camp. The study found the conditions amount to a "humanitarian crisis."

"Internationally agreed standards for the provision of aid and protection in refugee situations are nowhere to be found in Calais.... This is a blight on Europe, who should and can do better," the study states.

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