World

France To Bulldoze 'Jungle' Refugee Camp, Displacing 1,000

| by Nik Bonopartis
Syrian children at a refugee camp in Lebanon.Syrian children at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

France wants to clean up a refugee camp known as the "Jungle," and has given 1,000 migrants a week's notice to clear out before the bulldozers arrive.

The makeshift camp looks like a tent city and refugees there are living in squalid conditions, the Guardian reported. It's a state-sanctioned shanty town in the Calais area of northern France, situated in a wasteland near the edge of a former garbage dump.

In April of 2015, the French government told refugees they would be "tolerated" there while they wait for approval to move on to the U.K. The French government initially promised access to showers and hot meals, but a Telegraph story in the summer of 2015 noted that refugees have to wait in line for their turn at the 30 water taps, and there were only 20 portable toilets for as many as 3,000 total refugees living in the camp and its surroundings.

The French government was reluctant to improve conditions out of fear that more people would settle in the camp, the newspaper reported.

Now, French authorities want the refugees to move to a new camp, where they can take shelter in converted shipping containers.

“The time has come to move on, no one must live in the southern part of the camp, everyone must leave this section,” Calais prefect Fabienne Buccio said, according to the Guardian.

Many refugees aren't happy about the news, the Guardian reported, saying the new camp doesn't have cooking facilities or communal areas. Refugees moving in and out are required to register palm prints with the authorities, and they told the newspaper they worry that could endanger their plans to ultimately seek asylum in the U.K., due to European Union laws that tether refugees to the countries where they officially declare they're seeking asylum.

While the "Jungle" conditions are squalid, the refugees said, the camp also has churches, mosques, and makeshift stores. Refugees also want to remain in the area because it borders the port of Calais and the Eurotunnel connecting France with Britain.

French and British authorities stopped 39,000 illegal attempts to cross the English channel illegally, and another 37,000 attempts to cross via the Eurotunnel, the BBC reported. As a result, the port is now closed off with a 16-foot razor wire fence and armed police guarding access points. Police arrested more than 18,000 migrants in the area in the first half of 2015 alone.

Buccio said the refugees are wearing out their welcome.

“I think it’s our duty to bring this camp down to 2,000 people living in an organised and dignified camp," she said, according to the Guardian. "That is an acceptable number for the local population."

Sources: The Guardian, BBC, The Telegraph / Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection via Flickr

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