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France: Evacuation of Calais Jungle camp starts
Published on 24-10-2016 - at 01:56' by Al Jazeera

Refugees and migrants gather at meeting points in preparation for French operation expected to take three days.

Migrants and refugees have begun arriving at official meeting points set by French authorities as part of the full evacuation of the so-called Jungle camp in Calais.

Men and women carrying suitcases and bundles of possessions gathered early on Monday in front of a warehouse which is serving as the main headquarters of the evacuation operation.

French authorities believe the evacuation will take around three days in total.

As part of the operation, between 6,000 and 8,000 migrants and refugees - mostly from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea - will be moved to reception centres across France.

Dozens of French riot police vehicles and other trucks carrying equipment earlier set off in the direction of the operation centre.

The flyers distributed on Sunday instructed the migrants and refugees in Arabic, Tigrinya, Pashto and other languages to show up at the warehouse from 8am local time on Monday (06:00 GMT) with their luggage.

At the warehouse they will be separated into four groups for families, single men, unaccompanied minors and other people considered vulnerable before boarding one of 60 buses that will take them to nearly 300 shelters nationwide.

Child refugees

British officials have been racing to process child refugees seeking to be transferred to Britain before they become scattered throughout France.

By Saturday, the number of minors given a one-way ticket to Britain under a fast-tracked process for children launched a week ago stood at 194, according to France Terre d’Asile, a charity helping in the process.

Most have relatives across the Channel but 53 girls without family in Britain also departed from France at the weekend.

A spokesman for Britain’s interior ministry confirmed it had "now started the process of taking in those children without close family links".

Adult migrants and refugees with relatives in Britain have complained about being left out in the cold.

Some have pledged to keep trying to stow away on a truck or to jump onto a train entering the Channel Tunnel.

Dozens of refugees and migrants have died in such attempts.

Bone of contention

The dire security and humanitarian situation in the Jungle - situated on a former rubbish dump where migrants and refugees first established a camp in the early 2000s - has long been a bone of contention between France and Britain.

The centre-right front-runner in next year’s French presidential election, Alain Juppe, has called for Britain’s border with France, which was extended to Calais under a 2003 accord, to be moved back to British soil.

The closure of the squalid camp is aimed at relieving tensions in the Calais area, yet the imminent closure of the camp provoked furtherr flashes of unrest over the weekend, including clashes between police and dozens of protesters.

Dozens of people could be seen throwing rocks at police in images broadcast on Sunday by the French BFMTV station. Authorities responded with tear gas.

Around 1,250 police and security officials have been mobilised in order to ensure the smooth roll out of the operation.

JPEG - 25.7 kb
Around 1,250 security officials have been mobilised in order to ensure the smooth roll out of the evacuation

Kwamamaza
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