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2 Sep, 2016 14:06

France vows to destroy Calais ‘Jungle’ as Paris authorities plan 2 more refugee camps

France vows to destroy Calais ‘Jungle’ as Paris authorities plan 2 more refugee camps

The French interior minister has vowed to destroy the notorious Calais ‘Jungle’ migrant camp with “utmost determination.” The statement comes days after authorities announced two new camps would be built for asylum seekers in Paris.

“We have already proceeded to dismantle the southern area [of the Jungle camp] in early March and we have already begun in the north... My intention is to continue [the demolition of the camp] with the utmost determination,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who was visiting Calais, told local newspaper Nord Littoral on Friday.

He added that the process “must be done in stages, starting with creating more accommodation places in France to unblock Calais.”

READ MORE: Calais ‘Jungle’ population soars to record 6,901 migrants – official census

According to the minister, some 6,900 asylum seekers are still living in the camp – confirming the numbers presented by the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais earlier in August. However, local humanitarian aid groups L’Auberge des Migrants and Help Refugees reported the camp housed over 9,100 people in their own census in August.

Cazeneuve said France has increased the number of police forces in the troubled region.

“Since the start of 2016 there are now 1,900 police officers who are present in Calais. And now we are sending 200 more…There are [also] 2,100 security personnel present in Calais.”

On Wednesday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that two more refugee camps will be opened in the French capital, both of which will be ready by the end of September.

“There will be two migrant camps, one for men only, and one for women and children,” Hidalgo said, as cited by France Bleu newspaper.

Their construction began back in June this year somewhere in eastern part of Paris near the Garde du Nord and Boulevard de la Chapelle, reports in the French media suggested. The exact location of the camps has still not been revealed.

In the meantime, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who visited the ‘Jungle’ camp on Friday, once again expressed his commitment to the idea of the closure of the site. Cazeneuve said he would press ahead with the removal of the camp “with the greatest determination,” as reported by the regional Nord Littoral newspaper.

He also said the dismantling of the northern part of the camp had already begun at his order. At the same time, he did not specify the date of what he called “the total dismantling of the camp,” Le Figaro reported.

Cazeneuve also announced plans to build new reception and accommodation centers for refugees and migrants in the coming months, saying “5,528 migrants from Calais have been welcomed in the 161 new reception… centers built in France.” He added that “this policy will continue with the establishment of new accommodation and reception centers with 6,000 places by the end of the year.”

The minister said that additional new centers for asylum seekers, which will be able to host 5,000 people, will be created in 2017.

Though French authorities bulldozed parts of the ‘Jungle’ camp back in February, this did not deter thousands of refugees from living in the remaining areas of the camp. 

While a court in Lille had authorized the demolition of the ‘Jungle’, it told police to spare public facilities such as mosques, restaurants and schools that have sprung up on the site.

Migrants in Calais were also offered bus rides to centers elsewhere around France in an attempt to ease the pressure on the port city, but this did not solve the problem.

The asylum seekers, who are mainly from the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan, have traveled to France in the hope of crossing the English Channel to the UK, often having had their applications rejected elsewhere, or in expectation of better prospects in Britain than in the rest of the EU.