France starts ‘calm’ evacuation of Calais migrant camp

Paris, Oct 24 (IANS) France on Monday started to clear, in a “calm and controlled manner”, the shanty town in northern Calais where about 9,000 migrants live, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

“The objective is to find shelter for those who are seeking asylum in France and who should not be in precarious conditions, vulnerable, and in the hands of smugglers,” Xinhua news agency quoted Cazeneuve as saying.

Television footage showed dozens of migrants lining up with their suitcases, waiting to be transported to reception centres where they will receive medical checks and start the procedure of applying for asylum.

Thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East have fled war and poverty in their native countries recently, leading to an unprecedented migrants crisis in Europe.

Some of the migrants live in Calais where the French end of the Channel Tunnel is located, while they attempt to board lorries and trains heading to Britain to seek a better life.

The French government pledged that 9,000 places would be made available at “reception and orientation centres” for refugees who will be dispersed into groups of 40 to 50 people for a period of between three and four months.

The migrants who fit the asylum criteria will stay in France while those who do not will be sent home.

On Monday morning, 17 buses, out of the 60 that were planned, have left the Calais “jungle” carrying 711 migrants. The total evacuation will take at least a week, according to officials.

“We will take the necessary time. The most important thing is that (the evacuation) is carried out smoothly and with respect for migrants and also for those who will welcome these people,” Fabienne Buccio, Pas-de-Calais prefect, said.

France promised to receive 30,000 refugees over the next two years.