SHAFAQNA – France has vowed to destroy the Calais Jungle migrant camp.
The country’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve also promised to beef up police presence in the area believed to be housing 10,000 UK-bound migrants.
He pledged the French government would “pursue with utmost determination” the step-by-step dismantling of the Calais Jungle.
Mr Cazeneuve said: “The dismantling process of the camp’s south zone began in March; and we’ve already begun dismantling parts of the north zone.
“But it’s a step-by-step process. First, we need to create more accommodation places in France in order to help relieve the pressure on Calais.”
Mr Cazeneuve will be at the Calais Jungle camp later today, where he is due to meet mayor Natacha Bouchart, and representatives of a trade association who claim their businesses have been “directly affected by the migrant crisis”.
Speaking to radio station Europe 1 earlier this week, Calais mayor Ms Bouchart said she was tired of hearing members of the government say the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp would be dismantled “in stages”.
She said: “We tried that once before, and yet the number of refugees living in the camp has doubled.”
Ms Bouchart also urged for “immediate action” and not a “step-by-step” dismantling process.
In an interview on French TV today as Mr Cazeneuve visited Calais, Ms Bouchart again blasted the French interior minister.
She said: “Up to 10,000 migrants are currently living in the ‘Jungle’. The government is powerless, and did not do what it should have to help Calais. I want to hear the interior minister say that he is planning on dismantling the ‘Jungle’s’ north zone.”
Mr Cazeneuve also said that local authorities had attempted to shut down the illegal stalls located in the camp’s north zone, but that a court in Lille had vetoed this plan last month, after arguing that the makeshift start-ups gave “desperate migrants” access to basic things such as food and drink.
He said he had taken the case to the country’s supreme court – the State Council – in a bid to tear down the makeshift stalls and continue to dismantle the camp’s north zone.
The left-wing politician also said the French government would encourage Jungle migrants to leave the Calais camp via the creation of 8,000 additional shelter places: 2,000 places in reception and orientation centres, and 6,000 places in reception centres for asylum seekers.
A total of 5,528 Jungle migrants have been relocated to the country’s 161 reception and orientation centres since October 2015, said the interior minister.
The French government will also be creating an additional 5,000 new places in emergency shelters for asylum seekers in 2017, on top of the “10,000 existing places”.
A local police trade union and several aid associations said that up to 10,000 migrants were living in the camp in August; however, this information was quickly refuted by Mr Cazeneuve.
He said: “There are 6,900 – not 10,000 – migrants living in the north zone of the Calais Jungle camp. That’s a lot of people already, there’s no need to make the situation sound worse than it actually is.”
The interior minister announced that an additional 200 men would be sent to help the 1,900 policemen already stationed in Calais, including “fifty-four policemen to help protect the border, and 140 members of the police’s special CRS riot control force, who will be protecting the port of Calais ring road and the A16 motorway.”
The additional troops, he said, would help put an end to migrant-led attacks on UK-bound lorry drivers.
Mr Cazeneuve also said that president Francois Hollande would be visiting Calais at the end of the month.
The situation in Calais is part of a wider refugee crisis across Europe, which has been struggling with its biggest influx of asylum seekers since World War II, as people flee conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East.
Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in the violence-hit regions, forcing more people out of their homes.
More than 278,320 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, while over 3,170 people died or went missing in their perilous journey to the continent, according to the latest figures by the International Organization of Migration.