French President Francois Hollande has demanded that the notorious Calais camp in northern France be dismantled where thousands of refugees living in squalid conditions hope to reach Britain.
Hollande paid a visit on Monday to the northern port of Calais for the first time in his five-year as president. He was to meet port officials, police and local politicians but was not expected to visit the camp itself.
The Calais camp is known as the “Jungle” due to the appalling living conditions of asylum seekers there. Between 7,000 and 10,000 people are massed in the “Jungle,” some for months, in the hope of a passage to Britain by human traffickers.
Holland called on Britain to “play their part in the humanitarian effort that France is undertaking here.”
This picture in taken from the northern area of the Calais camp in France, September 25, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)
“It is not that the UK has taken a sovereign decision meaning it does not have obligations with respect to France,” Hollande said in an apparent reference to Britain’s vote (Brexit) to leave the European Union.
Hollande said he will move the refugees from the camp to various centers across France. His government said the camp will be demolished “before winter.”
Authorities in Calais began last week to build a British-funded wall to prevent refugees to stow away on trucks heading for the United Kingdom. The construction work is due to be finished by the end of the year.
Reports said in March that more than three quarters of refugees and asylum seekers living in the Calais refugee camp had been subject to mistreatment at the hands of French police.
Workers dig foundations of a wall on September 20, 2016 to stop refugees from jumping on trucks heading to Britain. (Photo by AFP)
Help Refugees, a UK charity for refugees, said in April that 129 unaccompanied people had gone missing from the “Jungle” shortly after French police demolished the southern part of the camp in March. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to evict thousands of people from the site.
Volunteers working in the Calais camp say Paris’ refusal to classify the camp as a humanitarian crisis is causing major child protection issues. They have reported serious cases of sexual abuse, saying teenage boys are being raped in the Calais Jungle.
There are also concerns about the risks of abuse of thousands of displaced children across the European continent, which is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees.
Many blame major European powers, whose policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly Syria, and forced more people out of their homes.