Migrants march against French plans to close squatter camp

25th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Several hundred migrants marched in the French port of Calais on Friday in protest at plans to shut down a squatter camp in the city.

LILLE - Several hundred migrants marched in the French port of Calais on Friday in protest at plans to shut down a squatter camp in the city.

Between 350 and 600 people took part in the march, according to estimates by police and campaigners, against the closure of the camp known as the "jungle", which is used by migrants trying to get to Britain.

"They don't want the 'jungle' to be razed," said Jean-Claude Lenoir, a member of the migrant support group Salam.

The demonstrators also protested about a raid on the squatter camp this week, in which police rounded up some 190 people, only to release them the following day, Lenoir said.

France's Immigration Minister Eric Besson on Thursday said he planned to close the Calais tent camp by the end of the year, but promised measures to help hundreds of migrants who have set up shelters in the area.

Relief organisations estimate that between 600 and 800 people -- including Afghans, Eritreans, Somalis, Sudanese, Iranians, Nigerians and Kurds -- are sleeping rough in the Calais region, around 400 of them in the "jungle".

Local politicians and business leaders complain the camp has mushroomed and that tensions between the migrants and residents are growing.

The "jungle" appeared after the closure of a Red Cross shelter in nearby Sangatte in 2002, under pressure from Britain which saw it as a springboard for illegal migration.

Besson said Thursday the camp would be replaced with a centre to receive asylum requests and facilities to provide would-be migrants with health care and meals.

AFP / Expatica

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