Calais 'Jungle' evictions delayed

A Syrian migrant with a Union Jack covering used as a door to his shelter in the "Jungle" camp in Calais. The French authorities plan to demolish half of the camp but its inhabitants are resisting an eviction order.
A Syrian migrant with a Union Jack covering used as a door to his shelter in the "Jungle" camp in Calais. The French authorities plan to demolish half of the camp but its inhabitants are resisting an eviction order.PHOTO: REUTERS

CALAIS • A French court has delayed its ruling on the demolition of half of the "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais, just hours before a deadline for residents to be evacuated.

Emotions were running high yesterday in the camp on the outskirts of the port city, where many residents had refused to leave despite an evening deadline to vacate the southern half.

The local authorities had said the demolition of the makeshift houses in the section was expected to begin today.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Monday said the eviction would be done "progressively, by persuasion and with respect for people's dignity".

But charities working in the Jungle have challenged the eviction order, and a magistrate visited the camp early yesterday to assess the situation. Her verdict set for later in the day was delayed.

A court source in the city of Lille said a decision was not now expected until today or tomorrow.

Many residents appeared to be standing firm. "I don't have anywhere else to go," said John, a 28-year-old Sudanese migrant.

The authorities say 3,700 people are living in the Jungle, and between 800 and 1,000 will be affected. But the charities say a recent census they carried out found at least 3,450 people living in the southern part of the camp, including 300 unaccompanied children.

The evicted migrants have been offered heated accommodation in refitted containers, but many are reluctant to move there. They have also been offered places in around 100 centres spread around France.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Calais 'Jungle' evictions delayed'. Print Edition | Subscribe