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12 Jan, 2016 13:26

Clearing the Jungle? Refugees vow to fight camp evictions by French police

Clearing the Jungle? Refugees vow to fight camp evictions by French police

Refugees in Calais will peacefully resist plans by French police to bulldoze a large section of the so-called Jungle camp just one day before an eviction deadline, according to British volunteers at the scene.

Community representatives decided to resist the camp clearance – which charities claim will displace around 2,000 people – during a meeting on Monday evening, according to Help Refugees’ Calais Manager Philli Boyle.

Boyle said the charity would support the refugees’ decision, but will work on contingency plans, such as building new shelters.

French police warned aid organizations on Monday of their plans to bulldoze roughly a third of the camp, representing around 500 shelters, according to Help Refugees.

Local authorities gave just three days’ notice to clear an area, which charities believe is home to around 2,000 people, including 300 women and 60 children.

Help Refugees issued an urgent plea on Monday evening for experienced volunteers to join the relocation effort.

Speaking to RT from Calais, Boyle said the organization’s efforts are now focused on supporting refugees in their decision to resist the eviction and providing a contingency plan.

It was decided in the meeting of the community spokespeople yesterday – each of the communities represented in the camp – it was agreed that they reached a unified decision to peacefully resist the enforced eviction from this large portion of the camp that has been announced by the police,” she said.

So they are planning to remain where they are and we, as all the associations on the ground here, are obviously supporting their right to come to that decision as a group … we will be spending the next few days working on clearing some other spaces and making some contingency plans and ensuring that we look after the most vulnerable people in the community.

[We will] support anyone who is in the affected area – the area that will be bulldozed – anyone who is in there who wishes to be relocated, we will be giving them assistance with that. So we will be building shelters and helping people move where they want to,” she added.

Boyle said Help Refugees had not yet discussed the outcome of the meeting with French authorities.

Prior to the community’s decision the charity had hoped to receive an extension to the three-day window, given the logistical challenges of relocating so many people with such short notice.

Boyle told RT that French authorities plan to bulldoze a section of the camp because they want to discourage refugees from settling.

The government wants the camp to be smaller, they haven’t tried to keep that a secret. The plan has been for a number of months to reduce the camp size to 2,000 people.

We estimate that there are currently about 5,000 people living in the Jungle site and the assumption is that the idea is just to reduce the size of the camp [so] people will be encouraged to leave, go elsewhere, take other actions. It’s just a gradual process where they would like the camp to be dramatically smaller.”

In the French port of Dunkirk, the mayor of Grande-Synthe has asked aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) to help provide migrants with a new semi-permanent camp.

The new camp will have showers, better sanitation and provide more protection from cold weather. MSF said the current camp in Grande-Synthe has just 32 latrines for 2,500 people.