Calais ‘Jungle’ migrants to be dispersed across France – Hollande

Migrants walk in the dismantled area of the camp for migrants called the "Jungle", in Calais, France, March 14, 2016. © Pascal Rossignol
Migrants living in the notorious Calais camp dubbed the ‘Jungle’ will be dispersed among reception centers all over France “within weeks,” French President Francois Hollande said as he reiterated his pledge to close the facility.

“There should be no [migrant] camps in France,” Hollande said, adding that the conditions in the migrant shanty town near the northern French port city of Calais are “unacceptable,” especially for those fleeing war and persecution, French media reported.

The migrants currently living in Calais will be moved to reception centers built all over France, with each facility hosting between 40 and 50 people, the French president said as he visited one of the places located in the Loire Valley city of Tours on Saturday.

The centers will hold the migrants for up to four months while their cases are examined, Hollande said, adding that those considered ineligible for asylum will then be deported to their countries of origin.

He also added that, after all the camp residents are moved, the camp itself will be finally dismantled, although he did not set any specific date. Hollande is scheduled to visit the city of Calais on Monday as he campaigns for a return to the presidency next year. He vows to be particularly tough on immigration.

On September 2, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also pledged to press ahead with the closure of the notorious camp “with the greatest determination” as he announced the creation of more than 160 migrant reception facilities across France – a move that was resisted by many local politicians at that time.

A member of the French Republican Party and the president of the Regional Council of Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, Laurent Wauquiez, even launched a petition against the move saying that it would amount to the creation of smaller ‘Jungle’ camps all over France, Le Figaro reported.

The ‘Jungle’ camp is renowned because of attacks on the locals by its population as well as on drivers passing through the area. On September 5, French farmers, truck drivers and police staged a blockade of the motorway leading to Calais as part of a protest demanding the demolition of the camp.

Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, who joined the protesters, told RT that people got tired of migrants entering their gardens every night, attacking drivers and breaking the law in various other ways, while “the law does not allow us to arrest or condemn all those people.”

In the meantime, construction of a one kilometer concrete barrier alongside the notorious camp began on September 21. The construction works have been paid for by the UK, which contributes about £2 million ($2.6mn) to improve safety at Calais.

The project already sparked controversy as some French politicians, including the former French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, suggested that Calais migrants must be dealt with in Britain rather than stay in France, as they actually want to get to the UK. At the same time, a British truck drivers’ association called it a waste of money.

The planned closure of the ‘Jungle’ camp has been criticized by charity organizations that have called it “political posturing” that would eventually worsen the situation for the people living there.

French authorities bulldozed parts of the ‘Jungle’ camp back in February and March but migrants just continued to live in other areas of the camp with their number constantly growing. Now, 6,900 people are residing there; it once hosted only 1,500 people in 2014, according to an August census carried out by border law enforcement officials.

The Calais mayor said that the number of those living in the facility could reach more than 9,000 while local aid groups put it at about 10,000.