Calais 'Jungle' migrant camp crisis: Here's why the authorities are demolishing it

France’s uncertainty about migrants became apparent soon after the Brussels attack with the French people becoming severely critical of migrants.

FP Staff October 26, 2016 12:49:43 IST
Calais 'Jungle' migrant camp crisis: Here's why the authorities are demolishing it

France's uncertainty about migrants became apparent soon after the Brussels attack with the French people becoming severely critical of migrants. After the attack, they even had a reason to come down heavily on migrants and send them into exile to save their country.

The feeling of hatred and resentment against migrants pervade the air in the France in the wake of the recent terror attacks that the country is dealing with. An atmosphere of Islamophobia is also quickly gathering up in Paris. The French government seems determined to crack down on immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants. The most recent move by the government has been to clear the "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais on France’s northern coast and subsequently demolish it.

Calais Jungle migrant camp crisis Heres why the authorities are demolishing it

Migrants watch as tents in the Calais camp are burnt by authorities. AP

The state of Calais jungle camp and its genesis

The "Jungle" is a collection of tents and shelters patched together near Calais. The camp was considered as an impediment to the relations of France and Britain because most of the camp residents would try to reach Britain via trucks heading across the English channel. The camp dates back to April 2015 and has housed more than 10,000 migrants at its peak, mainly from Africa and the Middle East.

Hundreds of thousands heading to Europe from the Middle East and Africa in the continent’s biggest migrant crisis gave rise to the "Jungle".

Migrants were attracted to Calais because it is a key departure point for Britain where some have family links and many believe they have a better chance of finding work.

Rather than apply for asylum in France, most prefer to go to Britain because they are attracted to Britain’s reputation of being an economically vibrant country.

Calais is one of the squalid and unsanitary ghettos that the migrants live in. Illnesses spread easily in the "Jungle" and women and children are at the risk of sexual violence.

The deplorable conditions have also drawn the attention of the United Nations and charities.

Calais Jungle migrant camp crisis Heres why the authorities are demolishing it

A migrant looks at the burning Calais camp. AP

The local economy has also been hit because of the camp. The repeated targeting of trucks had disrupted traffic at the port and the English Channel. Locals complained about the image of the town and Calais bars and restaurants say their trade has been severely hit.

Despite the operation to clear the camp has been peaceful until now, the French and Britain governments are still concerned about the migrants trying to cross the Chanel.

According to a BBC report, as many as 1,264 adults have been taken to shelters around France, where they will be given the opportunity to claim asylum or face deportation, and 372 unaccompanied children were taken to "provisional reception centres" within the camp.

The trouble started brewing after around 100 migrants broke through a fence and entered the Eurotunnel terminal, with some making it into the tunnel itself. A number of migrants have also died while trying to reach the UK.

The UK and France signed an agreement on new measures including a "control and command centre" to alleviate the migrant crisis in Calais. 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.

Calais Jungle migrant camp crisis Heres why the authorities are demolishing it

Migrants moving towards buses which will take them to shelters. AP

Under the agreement, Britain pays millions of euros each year for security in Calais – the latest investment being a wall along the road leading to the port – but it is French police and border agents who are on the frontline.

French President Francois Hollande had announced plans to close the jungle camp by the end of 2016 and relocate the migrants. He was also coming under increased pressure ahead of the polls in 2017 because of the local citizens protesting against the scanty condition of the camp and Britain showing its displeasure.

Conservative opponents have accused Hollande of mismanaging a problem they say is ultimately a British one.Some right-wing opponents of Hollande want all the migrants sent to Britain.

However, the migrants are now left with shattered dreams and little hope. Those hoping for a better and dignified life in the UK have been forced to relocate to temporary shelters within France.

The graffiti on the walls of the camp read, "I lost my hope" or "Is this justice? No".

However, others are beyond joy on being able to leave the camp. AFP quoted Ali, a migrant from Afghanistan, as saying, "We don't know yet where we are going, but it will obviously be better than the Jungle, which was made for animals and not humans."

It remains to be seen if France will relocate all the displaced people in an organised manner or it will erupt into a violent fight between the migrants and the police.

With inputs from AFP and Reuters.

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