- France - illegal - immigration - UK
AFP - The French government announced Wednesday that it would this week close a wasteland district of Calais known as "the Jungle" where hundreds of migrants trying to get to Britain have set up home.
Immigration Minister Eric Besson said some of the migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and other troubled or impoverished nations would be sent home from the notorious zone in the Channel port.
Besson said a police operation in the scrub land near the main port would be staged this week. He said the action would be taken because of the rising crime in the Channel port since "the Jungle" became established.
Hundreds of mainly male migrants try to jump on trucks going onto ferries or to get on trains going through the Channel tunnel to get to Britain.
Immigration ministry officials said "the Jungle" has become a haven for people smuggling gangs and that it had become a virtual "no-go zone." They estimated that there were about 700 people there three months ago and that there are about 300 now.
The ministry said that dozens of squats inside the zone had been closed over the past six months and that 170 people had made requests for asylum in France.
Besson said that an "individual solution" would be found for each person in the unruly zone, including a voluntary return to the home country, an asylum request or expulsion.
But he added: "If conditions in Afghanistan do not allow this there will be no forced return" to this country.
"The closing of 'the Jungle' will not be the end of the fight against the underground networks," said Besson, who added that other operations will follow.
Aid groups who work in the jungle said that the closure would not stop the would be migrants congregating in Calais hoping to get across the Channel.
"It is ridiculous," Friar Jean-Pierre Boutoille, of the C-Sur coalition of aid groups, told AFP. "When they get out of the jungle, the Afghans are just going to move one or two hundred metres away."
French authorities had a centre for migrants at Sangatte, near Calais but this was closed in 2002 because of similar fears about crime and the numbers staying there.