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Calais 'jungle': Demolition begins in massive migrant camp

An estimated 6,000-8,000 people, mainly Afghans, Sudanese and Eritreans, have been living in dire conditions in one of Europe's largest shantytowns in the hope of sneaking into Britain. Photograph: (AFP)

Agencies Calais, France Oct 25, 2016, 09.31 AM (IST)

A group of about 20 workers began on Tuesday to slowly destroy the Calais "Jungle" camp structures using sledgehammers and by hand, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. 

Almost 2,000 migrants left the camp on Monday as a massive operation to clear the settlement was announced.

Hundreds carrying suitcases queued outside a hangar to be resettled in reception centres across France.

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Monday four hundred minors were transferred to "provisional reception centres" within the camp.
 
Early Tuesday, scores of minors awaited their turn to be interviewed by French and British officials, news agency AFP reported.

Among them was Alaa, a 17-year-old from Iraq's second city Mosul, who said he fled his country with his 25-year-old brother when the Islamic State launched its offensive into northern Iraq in 2014.

"We had no choice but to flee," he told AFP. "If they want to kill you they kill you."

But life in the Jungle has been "really horrible", Alla further added. "I had my phone stolen, I was beaten, I was threatened."

His brother managed to sneak into Britain and join an uncle there, but Alaa stayed back because "it was far too frightening and dangerous", AFP quoted him as saying.

There is a federal election in France in May of 2017, and how to deal with the Calais Jungle is a contentious issue. France's government has billed the enormous operation to clear the camp as "humanitarian". But there were confrontations this weekend between riot police armed with tear gas and groups of refugees throwing stones, who do not want to be relocated in France because they still intend on reaching Britain.

The BBC reports that the UK has begun to accept some of the nearly 1,300 unaccompanied children from the camp. 

While Sky News reports that in July, the charity Citizens UK gave the British government a list with the names of 178 minors on it, all who have family in the UK. Under the law, they are entitled to be reunited with their family.

Identifying the camp inhabitants can be very difficult. Since many seek the protection afforded to youth, they are incentivised to lie about their age and say they're younger than they are. Also, many may official identification, making it impossible to say for sure who or how old they are.

Dozens of riot police vehicles and other trucks carrying equipment had earlier set off in the direction of the operation centre, an AFP correspondent saw.

Around 1,250 police and security officials have been mobilised.

In February, the southern half of the "jungle" was demolished, as the government hoped it would help disperse residents to the remaining inhabitants to other camps in France. While some did, many simply moved north, increasing the already dense population of the Calais camp.

Britain and France signed the so-called Le Touquet border treaty, which effectively moved Britain's border with France to the French side of the Channel, in 2003.

Located on wasteland next to the port of Calais, the four-square-kilometre (1.5-square-mile) Jungle has become a symbol of Europe's failure to resolve its worst migration crisis since World War II.

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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