At 7 am on February 29th, French riot police, construction workers and demolition experts converged on the so called, ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais to begin the court ordered demolition of the southern side of the camp.
According to Care4Calais’s British volunteer, Clare Moseley, authorities arrived in the early hours of the morning and gave refugees and migrants one hour to leave or risk being arrested.
Riot police vans equipped with water cannons lined the outskirts of the camps as bulldozers began disassembling the uninhabited tents.
Government officials have stated that the evicted migrants and refugees, can either go to the purpose built container camps or to other refugee centres dispersed around France.
Interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, had previously stated that ‘the eviction would be gradual,’ declaring that the use of force and brutality, ‘would only scatter the migrants everywhere.’ He further stated, that they have every intention of ‘finding shelter for all those who are in the southern zone at Calais, particularly unaccompanied minors,’ and that centres will be created for vulnerable women and children.
However, the numbers being evicted and the number of places available have come under scrutiny.
French authorities have claimed that between 800- 1000 migrants will be affected by the demolition; yet a census carried out by charities ‘L’Auberge des Migrants’ and ‘Help Refugees’ verified that in fact 3,455 refugees and migrants will be affected, including 445 children, 305 of which are unaccompanied children.
The charity Help Refugees, expressed their fears about the impact of the demolition ‘our concerns remain with the 305 unaccompanied children who will be evicted from their living quarters without proper assessment, safeguarding or suitable alternative provisions.’
Clare Moseley, had also previously commented on the inadequacy of the decision to evict refugees without providing a practical or safe solutions, “history has shown that every time they have tried to disperse people it hasn’t worked. Common sense tells you that they are just going to go back to sleeping in fields and smaller camps.”
Ms. Fabienne Buccio, senior official for the Pas de Calais, said, “we are carrying out our orders so that…, the destruction work can continue calmly.’