French police expelling migrants from Calais camps

  • 28 May 2014
  • From the section Europe
Media captionThe BBC's Paul Adams: "At some point we expect the whole camp to be bulldozed"

Police in the northern French city of Calais are removing about 800 migrants from Asia, the Middle East and Africa who are occupying camps near the port.

The authorities say the evictions are needed to deal with an outbreak of scabies in the camps, where numbers have swelled in recent months.

The migrants have been trying to get to Britain, and say they have nowhere else to go after the camps are destroyed.

Police moved into the site after a deadline for people to leave expired.

Several busloads of police in riot gear arrived at the camps early on Wednesday.

After a stand-off with local activists, the officers moved in and told migrants to pack their bags.

Media captionAfghan migrant Asif, who tried to sail to the UK on a raft, spoke to the BBC before the camp was cleared

Paul Adams, BBC News, Calais

The camps are cleared, but what happens next? Having failed to explain their plan until after the appearance of riot police, the Calais authorities should not be surprised that no-one seems to trust their intentions. The buses stand empty. Repeated efforts by local officials to explain their proposals are met with disbelief. This is just the latest episode in a long-running saga.

The migrants complain that they live like animals, with minimal shelter, appalling sanitation and little food. Now the authorities are offering to provide a shower, clean clothes and a better place to live. But the migrants, urged on by local activists, are refusing to co-operate.

Even as their camps are bulldozed and the migrants find themselves dispersed once more, they are bound to return to this place to risk their lives again and again.

An Eritrean man said he had tried to cross the English Channel by boarding lorries but was stopped by police several times. "I will try again and again," he told the BBC.

Local officials say the migrants will be transported to new accommodation somewhere in the region, but initial attempts to persuade them to board buses were unsuccessful.

Image caption The camps are all near the port - and many migrants have already tried several times to cross the Channel
Image caption Conditions inside the camps were poor, but now the migrants say they will have nowhere to go

Most people at the camps believe the UK will be a more welcoming place if only they can get there, our correspondent says.

In 2002 the French government closed the main Red Cross centre at Sangatte near Calais, but insanitary illegal camps have sprung up in its place.

The migrants have been sheltering under plastic bags and sheets, without water, power or even enough food.

The camps are a few hundred metres from a terminal where ferries take passengers and goods back and forth between France and the UK.

More on this story