Migrants board last buses from destroyed French camp

AP News
Posted: Oct 28, 2016 2:30 PM
Migrants board last buses from destroyed French camp

CALAIS, France (AP) — More than 100 migrants stranded in northern France after the evacuation of a notorious makeshift camp were transferred on Friday to reception centers around the country.

The director of the Pas-de-Calais region's program for young migrants said many of the people sent off on three buses had arrived at the now-torched camp known as "the jungle" only this week.

However, some children and teenagers who had resided at the makeshift camp before the mass evacuation that started Monday also were thought to be among the group.

A bus to the southern city of Toulouse left the port city of Calais with 48 adults, while two others carrying 70 minors headed to Rouen and another point in Brittany, in western France.

Migrants from troubled corners of the world have long used Calais as a stepping stone to Britain, hopping trucks headed across the English Channel. But their numbers swelled 18 months ago as more people fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East made their way here.

Efforts to remove them from Calais ended with the decision to close the unofficial camp, which held about 10,000 people and this summer and more than 6,000 at the beginning of the week.

"The message that we are trying to transmit is that it's really not worth coming to Calais," Serge Szarzynski, the social cohesion director for Pas-de-Calais. "The passage to England in any case is very difficult for the migrants, very dangerous."

"There is an idea that is going around that people are better taken care of in Calais concerning asylum requests. This is false," Szarzynski added.

Huge fires set by some departing migrants that engulfed large sectors of the camp brought the operation to an early halt on its third day Wednesday.

In the chaos and confusion, some migrants were left behind or refused to board the hundreds of buses that were arranged to take people to reception centers where they could apply for asylum.

Heated containers inside the camp housing 1,500 unaccompanied minors were filled up by Wednesday night.

However, state officials sent out several buses Thursday and the three more on Friday to pick up migrants who had spent one night sleeping rough and then Thursday night inside a small school in the camp.

Authorities are razing the sprawling camp, and bulldozers dismantled the school on Friday.

"We Love You" read a banner atop the makeshift school, before it tumbled into ruins.

As migrants left Calais, they continued arriving in Paris, as they have done since last year.

Prefect Jean-Francois Carenco tamped down reports that many of the estimated 2,000 people currently camped in northern Paris had arrived from Calais. Border police have registered no movement from the north to the French capital, a statement said.

Since June 2015, Paris' Ile de France region has provided shelter for 19,083 migrants, it said.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the latest group would be given shelter in the coming days.


Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this story.