Tensions in the northern French refugee camp in Calais, also known as "the Jungle," grew to a breaking point Tuesday as French authorities continued their demolition of its southern section. Refugees protested the destruction by lighting fire to their tents and pelting police with stones, and one female refugee slit her wrists, the Associated Press reported.
French authorities decided to destroy part of the camp and move its inhabitants to nearby heated trailers after reports of the ramshackle conditions of that portion of the Jungle. Reports of poor access to clean water, food and healthcare spurred the decision. Officials estimated 1,000 people lived in the area slated for destruction, while representatives from non-profit organizations said that number was closer to 3,500, including several hundred unaccompanied children.
— Tom Pugh (@Tom_PughPA) March 1, 2016
— ALEXANDRA RENARD (@ALEXF24) March 1, 2016
Over the past year the camp has become home to thousands of refugees who have built restaurants, places of worship and community centers, and they said they did not want to leave. The vast majority of refugees in Calais want to go on to the United Kingdom via the Eurotunnel under the English Channel. Many asylum-seekers in Calais said they wanted to go to England because they have family there, speak English or have heard about the strong job market.
The refugees and economic migrants in Calais are part of a persistent refugee crisis in the European Union that has escalated over the past year. More than 1 million asylum-seekers fleeing violent conflict in the Middle East and North Africa crossed into Europe in 2015, and 2016 has already seen an influx of more than 131,000 people.
European authorities have struggled to come up with a unified response to the crisis. The U.K. refused EU-wide quotas for refugees, while Germany, for instance, has welcomed more than 1 million people. France has offered asylum to the refugees of Calais, and many of them have refused, saying their goal was to reach the U.K.