French police fire teargas at refugees in Calais
Police in France have fired teargas at refugees during clashes in a camp in the northern port city of Calais ahead of the demolition of the site.
The violence erupted on Saturday evening when the refugees and asylum seekers started pelting bottles and stones in protest at plans by French authorities to move thousands of people from the area and then dismantle the makeshift camp.
The Calais refugee camp, pejoratively referred to in France as “the jungle,” is scheduled for closure on Monday. The French government has promised to secure places to resettle the camp’s residents around the country.
Destroying a camp… and hopes for a journey onward
The idea of relocation to other centers across France has, however, not been welcomed by some of the refugees who hope to further travel to Britain.
Local officials say some 5,700 asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia are currently residing in the camp in Calais, around the Channel Tunnel, the undersea passage into the UK. Charities, however, have estimated the number to be around 10,000.
The camp is grappling with such problems as overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and food shortages.
The ramshackle camp is also sheltering 1,300 unaccompanied minors. Last week, the UN refugee agency voiced concerns that lone children were at risk of trafficking if not adequately supported during the relocation.
The agency’s spokesman Adrian Edwards urged the French government to organize appropriate accommodation for the refugees being removed from the Calais camp.
The camp has become a symbol of Europe’s struggle to respond to 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 themselves 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 317,200 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, while over 3,630 people died or went missing in their perilous journeys to the continent, according to the latest figures by the International Organization of Migration.