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02 Sep 2016

BY Jennifer Morris

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France vows to dismantle Calais camp as blockade looms

France’s interior minister has vowed to begin dismantling the refugee camp at Calais to “unblock” the port city.

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Bernard Cazeneuve told regional newspaper the Nord Littoral he would press ahead with the closure of the camp “with the greatest determination”, the Guardian reports.

 

He said the site will be dismantled in stages, clearing the former wasteland where refugees and migrants are sleeping rough as many hope to reach Britain.

 

Cazeneuve said France would create accommodation for thousands elsewhere in the country “to unblock Calais”.

 

Meanwhile the mayor of Calais has said a blockade of the port by French lorry drivers, due to start on Monday, could cause "chaos" for British travellers.

 

Shopkeepers, police unionists and farmers plan to join hauliers in a "human chain" to demand the north of the Jungle migrant camp is demolished.

 

Natacha Bouchart said she would join the protest as the situation had become "unbearable".

 

French authorities have made repeated efforts to shut down the camp, which was created in April 2015 when authorities evicted migrants and refugees from squats and outdoor camps across the Calais area and concentrated them into one patch of wasteland without shelter.

 

Less than six months ago, the authorities demolished a large area of the southern part of the camp, saying the aim was to radically reduce numbers.

 

But the Guardian reports that this month the number of people in the camp reached a high of almost 10,000 people.

 

Cazeneuve said places for another 8,000 asylum seekers would be created this year and thousands more in 2017.

 

Currently 1,900 French police are operating in Calais, and Cazeneuve said another 200 would be added to their ranks “to reinforce the battle” against migrants smuggling themselves onto lorries bound for Britain.

 

Daniel Barney, of Médecins Sans Frontières, which opened a health centre in the camp, warned last week that the French and UK governments were turning a blind eye to the growing problems.

 

With overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and food shortages there is growing tension in Calais.

 

Cazeneuve will visit the city this afternoon and President François Hollande is to visit the city later this month.

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