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As ‘Jungle’ shuts down amid fires, migrants slip away

A day after the official operation to evict the migrants from the Jungle camp in Calais came to a dramatic end, with fires set by disgruntled refugees and anarchists, around 1000 people were still waiting to know their fate.

Published: October 27, 2016, 5:14 pm

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    Calais

    The interior ministry said Wednesday that nearly 5 600 migrants had been taken into shelters around France or accepted into Britain. Some 6 400 lived in the camp until this week when demolitions began, but according to some Calais residents a number of the former inhabitants are believed to have slipped away in the past week into the surrounding area.

    “There are still plenty of migrants milling around here this morning,” said FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris-Trent on Thursday, reporting from Calais. The latest “demolition” promises to be as useless as the previous three.

    Officials hailed the operation as a “success”, saying the informal part of the camp was now empty, but many locals fear new settlements will simply spring up in the area once the Jungle is razed.

    The head of the French immigration office told AFP that 10 buses were on standby to take those left to shelter. “It’s our final offer,” Didier Leschi said.

    Ash and rubble after departing migrants, allegedly helped by British anarchists, set fire to tents and wooden shacks, The Telegraph reported.

    Thousands of young men, mainly Africans and Afghans, with some Syrians and other Arabs, fled from the blaze as gas canisters exploded in the flames.

    Four migrants were arrested on suspicion of arson. Patrick Visser-Bourdon, the police chief in charge, said residents told his officers that activists belonging to anarchist group known as “No Borders” made their way into the camp during the night to set fires as “an act of resistance”.

    “No Borders” believe all borders are “racist” and activists threatened to disrupt the destruction of the “Jungle” by attacking French security forces.

    Migrants told the British daily that white activists placed gas cylinders on the roofs of huts and tents before setting fire to the canvas or wooden structures.

    “We are investigating these claims, and trying to find those responsible,” Visser-Bourdon told The Telegraph. Hundreds of armed riot police surrounded the site while the migrants streamed out of the burning remains of the camp.

    The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, said claims of the Jungle’s demise were “premature” and demanded “guarantees” that it would not spring up again, once the police had left.

    Bouchart said some 150 to 200 “No Borders” activists were believed to have infiltrated the port town, but gangs of migrants were hurling stones at emergency crews trying to extinguish the flames.

    Some angry Jungle inhabitants vowed to go to the beach, sleep there and build a new camp once authorities leave.

    The Telegraph witnessed a migrant picking up a fire extinguisher abandoned by firemen, and smashing the windows of a parked white van near the centre of the camp, as fire teams and volunteers were battling the flames.

    A Frenchman who lives opposite the camp rode into the fray on a white horse. “I’ve had to put up with migrants trying to burgle my house and cutting through my fences for years,” said the man, who declined to be named.

    Catherine Wren, a volunteer said: “The officials said they had stopped registering children to go to the UK.”

    Philippe Mignonet, the deputy mayor of Calais, told reporters Britain should take responsibility for the festering problem as it gets ready to leave the European Union after Brexit.

    He accused the UK of attracting new migrants with “generous” benefits and subsidised housing. “The UK government says it does not want any more migrants but never expels migrants who get there,” Mignonet said. “They [migrants] claim benefits and housing, and all we get is the British funded wall,” he added. The wall was designed to stop migrants sneaking into the holds of UK-bound trucks.

    Migrants wanting to go to Britain should be dealt with in the UK, not in France, he said. “The people of Britain made their choice about Brexit, and some of those choices mean they will face difficulty, but putting walls and fences up here [in France] is not right.

    “What English city would accept a fence and a wall being built by another country on their land?”

    karin@praag.org

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