Elaine Ganley?and Jerome Delay
CALAIS, France: A green light Thursday from a French court sets in motion the evacuation of a large swath of a sprawling migrant camp in Calais where thousands dream of getting to Britain, with promises of a progressive and humane process in what could be a slow death for the wind-swept outpost.
But skeptics say the bid to end an embarrassing chapter in Europe’s migrant crisis is not over, warning that many migrants will simply scatter along the northern coast.
The state announced this month that the densely populated southern half of the camp — known as the “jungle” — would be razed. A Tuesday night deadline for migrants to pull up stakes was pushed back after human rights groups and migrants took the issue to court.
In a partial victory for the state, the court in Lille ruled that the makeshift shelters where migrants sleep can be destroyed — but that common spaces like places of worship, schools and a library that have sprung up must stand.
The port city of Calais, with ferries and the Eurotunnel rail system to Britain, has for years lived with migrants escaping conflict, human rights abuses and poverty, hoping for the good life across the English Channel. Numerous small camps have been bulldozed inside the city. But the current camp, with an estimated 4,000 migrants, has transformed the port city into a high-security tension point, fueled far-right sentiment and defied efforts to make it go away.
France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve lauded the court decision. Cazeneuve denied that bulldozers and police — who began patrolling this month inside the camp — would flatten the sprawling makeshift settlement.
“It has never been our intention to send in bulldozers to destroy the camp,” Cazeneuve said in remarks broadcast after the court ruling was announced.
Officials estimate the number of migrants who will be affected at around 800 to 1,000. Humanitarian organizations say over 3,000 migrants live in the targeted southern sector.
Authorities said they will increase daily efforts to move uprooted migrants into a container camp set up last month in the northern sector and encourage them to go to a temporary welcome centers where they can reconsider their plans and eventually apply for asylum in France. No time limit was set on what is likely to be a weeks-long process.