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29 Feb, 2016 13:35

French police use tear gas, water cannon, as Jungle camp migrants fight eviction (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

French riot police deployed tear gas against migrants at the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp, as they met resistance to a planned relocation to a purpose-built facility. Charities say many of the evictees, including children, will fail to find replacement accommodation.

Officers arrived at dawn, accompanying demolition crews, targeting tents in the southern part of the camp, which according to NGOs, has been inhabited by more than 1,000 migrants, and possibly as many as 3,000. The charity Doctors without Borders, said that between 500 and 1,000 people would disappear, rather than take up places at a recently constructed nearby camp, or facilities elsewhere in France.

Our concerns particularly remain with the 305 unaccompanied children who will be evicted from their living quarters without proper assessment, safeguarding or suitable alternative provisions,” said the group Help Refugees.

As police gave a one hour warning to the inhabitants, 150 to 200 of them began to throw rocks and set fire to tents.

Armored police fired back with rubber bullets, and arrested a female activist from the anarchist group No Borders, who, they say, encouraged the migrants to riot. A water cannon was also turned against the protesters.

After tensions dissipated, council staff in orange jumpsuits proceeded to dissemble the shacks, which had been in place for a year.

"Really three houses out of four I mean three huts out of four, or three tents out of four were already totally abandoned with a lot of garbage inside,'' said regional official Fabienne Buccio, who was in charge of the operation. "Migrants had all the time necessary to gather their belongings. The rest was good enough to throw away.''

Last week, a Lille court authorized the demolition, but ordered the officers to spare the public facilities - mosques, restaurants and schools - that have sprung up on the site. The text of the ruling said the eviction had been "carefully arranged and meets a real need." Over €20 million has been spent on the new camp, which consists of adapted shipping containers, and over 100 other reception centers have opened their doors.

NGOs have opposed the move.

“As the demolitions of the Calais ‘Jungle’ start, the French authorities must ensure that they don’t bulldoze through the rights of refugees and migrants, many of whom are likely to be extremely vulnerable," said Amnesty International.

“Those evicted must be meaningfully consulted and that all their options considered. This includes facilitating access to asylum proceedings in France and visas to the UK for those with family members there, or other good grounds for admission."

Most of the Jungle residents, whose overall numbers likely exceed 4,000, are from the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan. Most have traveled to France in hope of crossing the English Channel to the UK, after having had their applications rejected elsewhere, or in expectation of better prospects in the country.