French authorities said Wednesday the infamous Calais ‘jungle’ camp that housed an estimated 7,000 migrants was no more. Officials said the last few migrants had vacated the dismal camp but the evacuation was marred by a few disgruntled migrants setting fire to some parts of the camp.
“The camp is completely empty. There are no more migrants in the camp,” Pas-de-Calais’ Prefect Fabienne Buccio said. “Our mission has been fulfilled.”
However, reports said several hundreds of asylum-seekers are stuck at the camp with no place to go. These include a number of unaccompanied minors.
The unofficial camp in the French port city came to international prominence for its grim conditions. French authorities had made several attempts to shut the camp down. The latest attempt began Monday with migrants boarding buses that took them to various reception centers around the country.
The fresh attempt to evacuate asylum-seekers and demolish the camp started despite concerns over the fate of the hundreds of unaccompanied minors residing in the ‘jungle.’
At least 200 minors have no place to sleep while 30 are temporarily staying in a warehouse but their fate remains unclear.
“When there were fires raging in the camp, the camp was cleared, but the registration process for children was closed, and the containers were full. So there was literally nowhere for children to go,” Dorothy Sang from Save the Children told the BBC. She added that several had run away and their whereabouts were unknown.
“I can’t stress enough how frightened children are,” Sang reportedly said. “I was with a 15-year-old boy here yesterday who wasn’t able to be registered. He had been held at knife point and all of his belongings had been taken from him and he had nowhere to sleep last night. There are more stories like this of children being separated by those who were looking after them.”
The Calais camp, which featured rows of makeshift homes, sprang up following the closure of an official camp near the port city. The Sangatte camp was set up in 1999 but shut down 2002. The camp, which had been the center of rising tensions between the United Kingdom and France, could house about 600 asylum seekers but was instead packed with about 1,500 people.
As per the 2003 Le Touquet treaty between France and the U.K., British officials check passports at Calais before people cross over to the U.K. thus preventing people from entering the country illegally. Hence asylum seekers hide in vehicles crossing over to the U.K. in an attempt to reach British soil.
The Calais camp has been witness to a lot of violence since it first came up, including a spate of violence over the weekend just before France was to begin the evacuation and demolition process. A minor told the Associated Press the recent fires terrified him. He is one of the thousands who had been trying in vain to get to the U.K.
‘My heart, it is broken,” he said. “I can’t do anything, even eat.”
Another asylum seeker, 20-year-old Muhammad Afridi from Pakistan, said, “The jungle is no good. We go to new jungle.”
French authorities said Wednesday at least 5,600 people had been shifted to reception centers since operations began Monday. This includes about 1,500 unaccompanied minors who currently stay in an on-site container camp.
The U.K., meanwhile, is funding the construction of a 0.6 mile wall which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The wall, which will cost the British government nearly $2.5 million, will measure up to 4 meters in height.