Mass riot police operation to break up Calais camps full of Brit-bound migrants
By Peter Allen
Last updated at 5:51 PM on 23rd October 2008
Riot police in Calais have begun a mass operation to clear illegal camps being used by gangs of migrants making for Britain.
In unprecedented scenes, hundreds of officers began a clean -up operation targeting the 1000 odd sleeping rough in the port in northern France.
It follows an expulsion order issued by the civil court of nearby Boulogne-sur-Mer following an increase in violence and anti-social behaviour among the migrants.
Clean up: Two hundred refugees have been expelled from an industrial wasteland in down town Calais, where they were squatting
In August a journalism student from London was brutally raped in one of the camps, known as The Jungle.
There have also been stabbings during gang fights between different groups of
migrants, with drug abuse and theft described by local police as rampant.
On Wednesday evening gendarmes were joined by 250 armed CRS riot squad officers to clear a camp full of some 350 Eritreans who intend to claim asylum in the UK.
Side roads to their site – a disused hangar near the town station – were blocked off by police vans and then officers went in, along with immigration officers. Some of the would-be migrants tried to escape over a wall, but most gave themselves up immediately.
Although mostly young men claiming to be refugees from the war-torn African state of Eritrea, they also included 24 women and 10 young children. Two pregnant women were taken to hospital for checks.
Makeshift tents were smashed to pieces, with 40 council workers removing tonnes of rubbish The break-up of the camp took under an hour, with crowds of immigrants then being led to Calaiss police headquarters.
Expulsion: Riot police were deployed to carry out the evictions
But Grard Gavory, the sub-prefect of Calais who was in charge of the expulsion, said: The objective was not to arrest these people. Each was able to pick up their belongings and leave on their own accord if they wanted to.
But later, we reminded them that there are other solutions to getting shelter.
Jean-Claude Lenoir, of the charity organisation Salam, said he was furious at what had happened.
All charities and even journalists were barred from watching the clean-up. These migrants were treated like dangerous terrorists.
They have absolutely nowhere to go now, except to Britain.
The clean-up operations have started following the election of Natacha Bouchart, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozys Right Wing UMP party.
Brit-bound: The refugees now have nowhere to go, except Britain
Last week both she and immigration minister Brice Hortefeux ruled out any possibility of the building of a new Sangatte-style welcome centre for migrants heading for Britain.
Re-affirming his uncompromising position on the subject, Mr Hortefeux said: We oppose any and all accommodation centres that would attract illegal immigrants and the traffickers who prey on them.
His words were echoed by Miss Bouchart who said: We cant allow such a measure, adding that increased security around the port in northern France was the way of dealing with the problem.
The politicians were speaking after a Roman Catholic charity was apparently given planning permission to build a new shelter in the town. Secours Catholique wants to convert a 5000 sq ft industrial building close to the port to include showers, a kitchen, and medical facilities for the estimated 1500 refugees sleeping rough.
It has already been dubbed Sangatte II, after the notorious Red Cross centre near Calais which housed thousands of Britain-bound migrants.
The original Sangatte was bulldozed as part of a deal between Britain and France in 2002, with all those arriving in the area since having to rely on charitable support for food and shelter.
Sher Hassan Jaabar, in his 20s and a migrant from Pakistan, is set to be charged with the rape of a 31-year-old journalism student, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Jaabar lived in squat known as The Jungle for some eight weeks before being arrested in nearby Dunkirk for having no papers last month. DNA has linked him to the scene of the rape. After his arrest Jaabar told officers that his 'dream' was to get across the Channel to Britain.