October 22, 2016

France to close notorious ‘Jungle’ refugee camp

An aerial view of the “jungle” camp at Calais where NGOs estimate more than 9000 migrants live. Photo: AFP

French President Francois Hollande says he intends to close the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais and move 9000 migrants to reception centres across France.

Setting out for the first time detailed plans to deal with the camp, Mr Hollande said the migrants would be given up to four months to seek asylum.

He has faced criticism over the squalid conditions in Calais, which he acknowledged were “unacceptable”.

Mr Hollande’s comments came as other European Union leaders met in Vienna to discuss the crisis.

The Jungle camp has become a powerful symbol of Europe’s failure to cope with the crisis unfolding as thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East cross the Mediterranean.

Half the camp was dismantled earlier this year, and with immigration likely to be a key issue in next year’s French presidential election, Mr Hollande is keen to close it completely.

He said each reception centre would hold 40 to 50 people for up to four months, during which time migrants could apply for asylum in France. Those who were unsuccessful would be deported.

About 7000 migrants live in the remaining half of the Jungle camp, up from 4500 in June, according to local authorities.

Humanitarian groups put the number closer to 9000.

“There should be no camp in France,” said Mr Hollande, who was expected to visit the site early next week.

The Jungle has played host to scenes of both squalor and violence, as migrants attempt to board lorries bound for the UK, clashing with drivers and police in the process.

More than 300,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean this year, the United Nations said this week, with 3500 recorded deaths.

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