Fires Blaze In Calais ‘Jungle’ Refugee Camp As Authorities Prepare To Demolish It

Fires have been responsible for portions of ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais being destroyed, while the French authorities continue with their operations to see it demolished. The clearance of the the area, which was home to over 7,000 migrants, has been relatively peaceful thus far, although the fires which were set are said to be the last act of “defiance” as the French government prepares to fully destroy the space migrants called home for months.

The Jungle camp is near the port of Calais and the 31 mile Channel Tunnel. The actual number of migrants who have lived in the camp is not known exactly, but the BBC shares that the total just before the demolition began was around 8,000. Violence within the cramped and squalid area had begun to increase, and the conditions made it a concern for officials of the nation.

Fabienne Buccio, the prefect of Pas-de-Calais, shared that it was a “tradition among the migrant population to destroy their homes before leaving.” However, Calais’ police commissioner shared that he has been told by migrants that the fires were started by activists.

A resident at the camp, Mahmoud al-Saleh, told the AFP, “There were several fires overnight. Every time one was put out, another would erupt It was clearly intentional. The firefighters came late. For a long time it was just us, migrants and volunteers, fighting the fires,” he continued.

On Wednesday morning, more smoke was seen rising from the camp. Migrants joined lines on Wednesday for buses to take them from the camp. On Tuesday, crews had begun the tear-down of the Jungle with sledgehammers, pulling down unoccupied huts and tents in hard hats and orange jumpsuits. The beginning of the demolition of the camp has been done mostly by hand thus far and in a manner that officials hope will be less difficult for migrants who remain to witness. Officials believe that sending bulldozers in at this early stage while migrants are still present, would send the wrong message.

The publication shares that demolition is expected to continue through Wednesday and is to be completed by Friday. The Calais Police indicate that by that point there should only be around 200 migrants who remain on site. Approximately 3,000 migrants have been moved out by bus to centers across France while 1,000 minors who have no family, have been given accommodation near the Jungle.

A correspondent for the BBC shares that the figures don’t quite add up seeing as there are only approximately 4,000 migrants that are accounted for. The camp had an estimated 6,000-8,000 residents which suggest a large number have disappeared to squat elsewhere around Calais or other towns. There are fears that the unaccounted may return to set up a camp once again, after the clearance of the Jungle is complete.

Additionally, Save the Children, a charity with a focus on assisting minors, has shared their concerns in regards to the hundreds of minors who have not been able to register for shelters and have nowhere safe following demolition. Approximately 200 of the children were brought from the camp to the UK under the Dubs Act, according to UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd. The amendment allows vulnerable children, such as girls and those under 13 a refuge in the United Kingdom, even if they do not already have family in the country.

There have been more than 1,200 police officers deployed for the clearance operations in Calais, for the purpose of intervening if there is unrest over the course of the demolition.

[Featured Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]