Tuesday, September 22, 2009



French police clear out hundreds of illegal migrants camping in a forest in Calais, with hopes of gaining passage into Britain

CALAIS, FRANCE: French police on Tuesday cleared out a squalid, sprawling forest camp known as the “jungle” harbouring hundreds of illegal migrants dreaming of slipping across the English Channel into Britain.

French Immigration Minister Eric Besson called it a “base camp for human traffickers” and said he would return the rule of law to the northern French coast. The people camped here have strained relations between Britain and France, and become a symbol of France’s struggle with illegal migration.

About a dozen vans carrying riot police arrived at the site in the northern coastal town of Calais on Tuesday morning and officers began moving in on the camp.

Most of the migrants are from Afghanistan, many having reached Calais after costly and dangerous clandestine journeys across Asia and Europe, by foot or hidden in trucks and boats. Several immigrants rights activists were also at the site.


“ON THE territory of this nation, the law of the jungle cannot endure eternally,” Besson said, calling for a return to order for the benefit of the migrants and Calais residents. The jungle “is not a friendly humanitarian camp”, Besson said on RTL radio on Tuesday.

The migrants try to elude the elaborate border security network, including heat sensors and infrared cameras, at the port of Calais or the Channel tunnel that carries the Eurostar trains and other undersea traffic to Britain. Nearly a decade ago, many thousands made it across by slipping inside or under trucks travelling the tunnel. Today only a few make it, but enough to sustain hope.

Besson said other, smaller camps scattered around the region — sheltering Iraqi Kurds and illegal migrants from other trouble spots — would also be cleared out Tuesday and in the coming days.

He said each migrant was being offered individual options, and that to date 180 have agreed to return to their countries and 170 started applying for asylum in France. The others will be expelled from France, primarily to Greece, the point where most of the migrants first entered the European Union. AP

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