on October 27, 2016, 1:37 am
French authorities have finished clearing the “Jungle”, a squalid shantytown outside Calais built by migrants who had hoped to make the passage to Britain but whose last inhabitants are now mostly dispersed around France.
The operation passed off peacefully for the most part, though some migrants torched tents and shelters in a last act of defiance as their hopes of a new life in Britain evaporated.
“This is the end of the ‘Jungle’,” Calais regional prefect Fabienne Buccio said. “Mission accomplished.”
The prefecture said it had brought 4404 adults and their children in from the cold and damp of the Jungle for resettlement in 450 centres around France since the start of the week.
A further 1200 unaccompanied minors had to be housed temporarily near the Calais site, their futures unclear .
Earlier in the day, riot police spread out around the camp, and fire trucks moved in to put out blazes that sent plumes of smoke into the sky.
Migrants fleeing poverty and war in the Middle East, Asia and Africa congregated to Calais hoping to cross the short stretch of sea to Britain by leaping on trucks and trains, or even walking through the tunnel under the Channel.
Britain refused to accept the vast majority of them – apart from a number of unaccompanied child migrants now being processed separately – and high fences were built to keep them away from the port traffic, but still they came.
Local opposition to the sprawling slum, along with growing criticism from right-wing politicians, finally stung the French government into action.
The Jungle has been an emotive subject in both Britain and France, whose populations share concerns about the pace and scale of immigration.
The British referendum vote this year to quit the European Union was in large part driven by such worries, and stoked by scenes of the Calais migrants trying to force their way in.
And now that Britain is leaving the EU, right-wing French politicians with an eye on winning power in next year’s elections say they want to tear up the agreement under which Britain’s border controls are conducted in France.
This would remove the problem from Calais and allowing migrants in future to reach Britain unimpeded.