‘Jungle’ clearance: Migrants begin to leave Calais camp

Migrants began arriving early Monday at official meeting points set by French authorities as part of the full evacuation of the Calais “Jungle” camp.

Men and women carrying suitcases and bundles of possessions gathered in front of a warehouse which is serving as the main headquarters of the operation, in which some 6,000 to 8,000 migrants will be moved to reception centres across the country.

In the pitch dark a queue of around 60 people already stretched in front of the closed doors of the operational headquarters, under the glow of streetlights. The numbers quickly swelled to around 500, who waited calmly in line to find out where they would be heading.

The first bus carrying migrants to a centre in Central France left the camp around 8.45 am.

Some 450 reception centres across France are set to welcome the migrants over the coming days.

Didier Leschi, from France’s Office of Immigration and Integration was hoping 2,500 refugees would be moved out of the camp on Monday.

The migrants were split into four groups: unaccompanied children, adults, families and vulnerable individuals. After a short interview the migrants are given the choice of two different regions in France.

Dozens of riot police vehicles and other trucks carrying equipment had earlier set off in the direction of the operation centre, an AFP correspondent saw.

France’s government has billed the enormous operation to clear the camp as “humanitarian”.

It will allow the closure of the largest shanty town in France, which has grown up over the last 18 months, filled with refugees — mostly from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea — seeking to cross the Channel to get to Britain.

The closure of the squalid camp is aimed at relieving tensions in the Calais area, where clashes between police and migrants trying to climb onto trucks heading to Britain are an almost nightly occurrence.

Around 1,250 police and security officials have been mobilised in order to ensure the smooth roll out of the operation.

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