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Police Clear French Migrant Camp   
 
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22-Sep-2009  
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French police have moved in to dismantle a makeshift camp set up by migrants near the port of Calais.

Hundreds of police were evicting about 300 migrants still in the camp, known as "the jungle", although more than 1,000 migrants had already left. Rights protesters scuffled with police and some arrests were reported.

Refugee groups have urged Britain to take some of the asylum seekers but the UK said reports it could be forced to take migrants were wrong. Rights activists initially formed a human chain as the operation began early on Tuesday.

Aerial television pictures showed officers moving unhindered throughout the camp and calmly leading out a line of migrants. But other shots showed some jostling and scuffling between police and protesters, some of whom were reportedly arrested.

French news agency AFP quoted a senior state official as saying that 278 migrants had been held in the operation. The migrants are being taken to centres around Calais for processing. France says all will be offered the chance to apply for asylum or voluntary assisted repatriation.

However, many of the camp's inhabitants left before the operation and correspondents say it is feared they will simply set up camp somewhere else. On their last night in the camp, some of those who remained said they feared for the future.

One resident, Bashir, a 24-year-old English teacher from northern Afghanistan, told the AFP news agency he had paid $15,000 (10,000 euros; Ł9,000) to travel to Europe through Pakistan and Istanbul.

He said: "We have no idea what the police will do, if they will take us or let us go free. "But here we already made our place. We have our homes, our showers and our mosque," he added.

Shortly before the operation began, French Immigration Minister Eric Besson said the camp had to be closed as it was "a base for people traffickers". "There are traffickers who make these poor people pay an extremely high price for a ticket to England," he said.

UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson said on Monday he was "delighted" about the closure of the camp. He said genuine refugees should apply for asylum in the country where they entered the EU.

Mr Johnson said: "Both countries are committed to helping individuals who are genuine refugees, who should apply for protection in the first safe country that they reach. "We expect those who are not in need of protection to return home."

On Monday a spokesman for EU justice commissioner Jacques Barrot denied reports he had called for a change in the law to allow some migrants to be fast-tracked into the UK. Michele Cercone told the BBC there was no attempt to force countries to take asylum seekers and Mr Barrot was urging France and the UK to "find a joint solution".

The UK-based Refugee Council wants Britain to accept some migrants, particularly children, with family connections in the UK. French officials had said the jungle had become a haven for people-smuggling gangs and a no-go zone for local residents. Makeshift insanitary camps sprang up after officials closed the Red Cross centre at Sangatte in November 2002.






 
 
Source: BBC
 
 

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