'Still plenty' of migrants in Calais 'Jungle' as bulldozing accelerates
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Dozens of migrants stranded in the Calais "Jungle", some of them children, desperately sought a way out Thursday as diggers begin tearing down the last remaining shelters in the burnt-out camp in northern France.
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A day after the official operation to evict the migrants came to a dramatic end, with fires ripping through the shantytown, around 100 people were still waiting to know their fate.
The interior ministry said Wednesday that nearly 5,600 migrants had been taken into shelters around France or accepted into Britain – out of the 6,400 estimated by authorities to have been living in the camp up until this week.
Officials hailed the operation as a success, saying the informal part of the camp was now empty.
But scores of migrants were left behind, some of whom slept in the biting cold, huddled together in sleeping bags. Others camped out in the hangar where migrants were registered this week for relocation.
“There are still plenty of migrants milling around here this morning,” said FRANCE 24's Catherine Norris-Trent on Thursday, reporting from Calais.
Norris-Trent further confirmed the continued presence of unaccompanied minors, saying those still in the camp are “very distrustful of authorities”.
On Thursday, dozens of people gathered outside the registration centre hoping to be given a ticket out.
"I spent the entire night here!" a young Afghan said. "I am in the queue for minors to go to England. I have family there."
Regional security chief Fabienne Buccio said those left in the camp had come from "Germany, Paris and elsewhere" and that registrations for transfer to other parts of France had closed.
Denouncing the situation, the Save the Children charity said "the situation for children in Calais after the demolition is the worst it's ever been" and that some children "had nowhere to go".
But the head of the French immigration office told AFP that 10 buses were on standby to take those left to shelter. "It's our final offer," Didier Leschi said.
Some 1,500 chilrdren are being housed temporarily in an on-site park of specially fitted shipping containers, which is now full.
As the clean-up began, a mechanical digger and other machines tore into makeshift shelters to clear up the settlement.
Some shacks in the slum outside the port of Calais – long a launchpad for attempts to sneak across the Channel to Britain – were still smouldering from the fires started the day before.
Buccio claimed Wednesday a "page has been turned" for the camp, which was a magnet for migrants hoping to sneak onto lorries or trains heading across the Channel to England.
But the fate of unaccompanied minors – the cause of a bitter blame game between Paris and London – remained uncertain.
The France Terre d'Asile charity, which is responsible for their care, told AFP that 40 children were due to be transferred to Britain on Thursday, adding to more than 200 that London has taken since mid-October.
Another 40 have been sent to a temporary children's shelter in eastern France with more set to be bussed to centres in the south and west on Thursday.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said that all minors "with proven family links in Britain" would eventually be transferred there.
He added that London had committed to reviewing all other cases where it was "in the child's interest" to settle across the Channel.
Claim of Jungle's demise 'premature'
Most of the migrants hoping to reach Britain had fled conflict, poverty or persecution in countries such as Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan, and the authorities have said those who agree to be moved can seek asylum in France.
Four migrants were arrested on suspicion of arson over the fires, which camp residents and officials alike said were set deliberately.
Many locals fear new settlements will simply spring up in the area once the Jungle is razed.
The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, said claims of the Jungle's demise were "premature" and demanded "guarantees" that it would not spring up again, once the police had left.
A number of former residents are believed to have slipped away in the past week into the surrounding area.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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