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Three Days Before France 'Bulldozes' a Third of Calais Refugee Jungle

Some 2,000 migrants and refugees in France's Calais Jungle camp have been given just three days to move from their tents and constructed shelters before the area is bulldozed.

by Sally Hayden
Jan 12 2016, 6:15pm

Photo via Mohammed, un migrant originaire d'Afghanistan qui vit dans la Jungle depuis 3 mois.

VICE News is closely watching the international migrant crisis. Check out the Open Water blog here.

Some 2,000 migrants and refugees in France's Calais Jungle camp are to be forcibly evicted from their tents and constructed shelters are bulldozed in three days, say aid workers.

The French authorities issued a removal order — which affects roughly a third of the Jungle — on Monday following the opening of a new official camp built to house 1,500 refugees, which they say provides better accommodation. 

But those living in the camp think that the shelters they have built for themselves, albeit ramshackle, afford far more privacy and dignity than the government camp, which is made up of converted shipping containers stacked on top of each other. They also believe they will be forced to apply for asylum in France once inside the official camp.

Statement released by migrants and refugees currently living in the Jungle in Calais, France. (Photo via Mohammad)

In a statement sent to VICE News, UK-based volunteer organization Help Refugees said: "Our Calais teams have just found out we have only three days to move and relocate approximately 2,000 refugees, including over 300 women and 60 kids, as the French government bulldoze a significant section (nearly one third) of the entire Calais camp, a much larger area than the associations on the ground have been previously told about.

"The area proposed includes approximately 500 shelters we, and other aid groups have built."

The "ridiculously short timescale" meant organizations would only be able to support with the relocation of 1 in 10 of those people affected, estimated aid movement Worldwide Tribe. "That leaves 1,800 people, who may well be forced out of their 'homes' by bulldozers, with nothing," it said in a statement. "That means 450 shelters, funded by donations and built by volunteers, will be destroyed with complete disregard. Who knows how many personal belongings, family photographs, important documents will be lost along the way, like they were when bulldozers last took to the camp."

Related: Christmas in the Jungle: It's the Worst Time of Year for Thousands of Refugees in Calais

Mohammad, a refugee from Afghanistan who has been living in the Jungle for three months, told VICE News there had been no "dialogue or negotiation" with the migrants before the command was given.

"Refugees here have planned that they are going to [stay] and they are not going to accept the government plan," he said, adding that people feared the French authorities were creating a surrounded area "like a prison."

He also pointed out that many of the shelters in the disputed land had been built with donations from British people. "The British government are paying the French government to destroy all of it," he said.

Xs being drawn marking out which parts of the Calais camp will be destroyed. (Photo via Mohammad)

Mohammad said that the refugees and migrants had resolved to keep it peaceful but "we don't know what's going to happen." He said the camp's population don't have any trust in the police and the French authorities."

Migrants and refugees living in the Jungle complain about being tear-gassed, or removed to detention centers without being allowed tell their friends or family what has happened.

"When it comes to human rights , when it comes to democracy that's all for Europeans, that's not for refugees," Mohammad said, adding "people know the French government doesn't really care about people, if they cared they wouldn't come [to us] like that."

"There should be a political or safe solution because it's not worth putting that many people in danger. They really need to think about it again."

Related: An Unaccompanied 15-Year-Old Dies in Attempts to Reach His Sister in the UK

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd