French authorities this morning began evacuating the Jungle migrant camp in Calais ahead of its planned destruction later this week.
The shantytown, which has long been targeted by people smugglers and sex gangs looking to exploit vulnerable migrants, saw clashes between would-be refugees and police over the weekend as tensions rose ahead of its scheduled closure.
Migrants threw rocks and started fires while authorities responded with tear gas as residents reconciled themselves to the fact that their dreams of reaching the UK illegally would now be more difficult to realise. At sunrise this morning, all signs of trouble had all but disappeared, as long lines of migrants formed for buses that would take them to detention centres in other parts of France.
Concerns were raised about the fate of unaccompanied children who remained at the camp, despite last-ditch attempts by authorities in France and the UK to get them to safety before the evacuation began. Charites and lawmakers on both sides of the English Channel warned that minors who were left in the camp would now likely disappear, and be left at the mercy of traffickers who might force them into sex work or modern slavery.
“That is what happened last time when part of the camp was closed without a plan for the children and teenagers, and the consequence is they slip into the arms of the smuggler rings, the traffickers, just at the point at which they might have been able to be reunited with their family, then they are lost,” British Labour MP Yvette Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.
Separately, French authorities have expressed worries that far-left anarchists might attempt to infiltrate the camp and encourage migrants to attack police as the authorities attempt to evict them. No Borders, a group that believes all borders are used by capitalist elites to divide and rule, last week held an event in London where its members vowed to travel to the Jungle camp to fight the police.
“Considering activists from hard-Left group No Borders have arrived in the Calais area and have set up home in squats, there is a high risk the activists have penetrated the camp with a view to influencing the migrants as they did in March,” a police spokesman for the Calais region said, recalling the last time the group sought to cause trouble at the camp.
Many commentators have predicted that the closure of the Jungle camp will simply result in the criminality it attracted being dispersed along the coast, and possibly into Belgium. With ruthless people smuggling gangs keen to take money from the many thousands of asylum seekers and economic migrants who are desperate to get to Britain, the closure of the site will be unlikely to end the rampant criminality the migrant crisis has brought to the French border.