France dismantles part of Calais migrant camp, onlookers tear-gassed

Riot police stood watch Monday as French authorities began dismantling part of a migrant camp near Calais.

Workers in bright construction vests and helmets took down tarps and sheets of material that had been cobbled together to create shelters by migrants hoping to reach British shores, just across the English Channel from the northern French city.

After attempts to dismantle the camp were marred on Friday by what authorities called "extremist activists," the workers returned on Monday accompanied by security forces, local official Etienne Desplanques told BFM-TV.

Tensions rose in the early afternoon as riot police fired tear gas in the direction of onlookers while workers bulldozed the makeshift huts.

Radio broadcaster France Bleu Nord reported that the tear gas had been fired after projectiles were hurled toward the police from the group of migrants and activists.

Last week, a regional judge upheld an expulsion order issued by the local administration for the southern section of the camp, paving the way to the dismantling of a semi-permanent site that has become a painful symbol of Europe's migration troubles.

The judge excluded sites of public use that had been constructed in the camps, including churches and mosques, centres for legal assistance and health posts.

But she said arguments presented by humanitarian groups decrying limited housing alternatives were outweighed by efforts made by local authorities and the French state to provide sufficient accommodation.

Authorities responsible for the Pas-de-Calais region said that between 800 and 1,000 people live in the southern section of the camp. Humanitarian groups put the number at more than 3,000.

A 1,500-person-capacity accommodation centre was built nearby, but local authorities and the Interior Ministry have encouraged migrants to apply for asylum in France and move to other parts of the country with more centres for accommodation.

Many of the estimated 4,000 people living in the camps near Calais are reluctant to give up their goal of reaching Britain.

Last update: Mon, 29/02/2016 - 19:12
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