CALAIS, France (AP) — Crews in hard hats and orange jumpsuits on Tuesday started dismantling a makeshift camp in France that has become a symbol of Europe’s migrant crisis while thousands of people remained there waiting to be relocated.
The workers tore down plywood cabins, tarp-covered sheds and other temporary buildings at the camp in the port city of Calais known as “the jungle.” The demolition is taking place as authorities are emptying the camp of an estimated 6,300 people who have been living there, down from a height of 10,000 this summer.
Earlier in the day, police were deployed to keep order among young migrants as French authorities entered the second day of a planned weeklong mass evacuation and closure of the camp.
Dozens of migrants pushed barriers and jumped over railings to get to the temporary processing center at the camp, the first step to being relocated elsewhere in France and the chance to apply for asylum.
Most identified themselves as unaccompanied minors with relatives across the English Channel in the United Kingdom.
Hassan Ali, a 25-year-old Pakistani who was among the crowds pressed by the gates to the processing center early in the morning, said Tuesday he was excited to get resettled and that his 3-month stay at the Calais camp had been “an experience of life.”
Ali said he hoped to return to university and find a job in France, having been unable to make it to Britain.
Emptying people from the makeshift camp that emerged 18 months ago on the French side of the English Channel is the first step toward its scheduled demolition
The Calais prefecture said that as of noon 656 additional migrants had boarded buses from Calais to reception centers in other parts of France. More than 1,900 left on Monday, day one of the mass evacuations.
The prefecture added that 139 more minors had been put in heated shelters in the camp, in addition to the 400 who had been sheltered Monday.
Many more migrants are preparing for a huge day of departures on Wednesday.
“People are leaving tomorrow. Lots of people have planned for tomorrow,” Abdul Walia, a community leader among the sizeable Afghan population of the camp, said.
Walia said the camp departures have been peaceful, despite the uncertainty for migrants being forced to leave.
“Lots of people are upset as their hope is to go to England,” he said. “But this hope is finished.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of the journey from the “jungle,” upbeat migrants stepped off buses in regions all around France to local welcomes.
Thirty-two Sudanese and one Afghan migrant arrived from Calais to a reception and orientation center in Chatellerault, in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, on Monday evening and were welcomed by local authorities.
But the welcome in other regions, such as the eastern village of Chardonnay that had a group of Sudanese migrants arrive Monday, have been lukewarm, according to local media.
Adamson reported from Paris
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