Bishop condemns Calais 'Jungle' tear gas 'against children'

Huts are dismantled on the Jungle camp. 29 Feb 2016 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption French police oversaw demolition work on Monday and Tuesday

The use of tear gas during the clearance of the Calais migrant camp while children were present has been condemned by the Bishop of Dover.

The Right Reverend Trevor Willmott said it should never be "acceptable for children to be sprayed with teargas".

He also called on Christians to hold a minute of prayer for the situation.

The French authorities said no children were affected by tear gas, but the BBC's Peter Whittlesea said families were present during the clearances.

'Most vulnerable suffer'

In a statement, Bishop Willmott said there were no "easy answers" or "quick fixes" to the migrant crisis but God had stood in the "crowd enveloped by teargas" on Monday.

"As different interests compete across Europe, questions of security, stability, shelter and safety clash violently. And when they do, those that suffer most are those who are most vulnerable.

"It should never be acceptable for children to be sprayed with teargas."

Image copyright Diocese of Canterbury
Image caption Bishop Willmott said God stood in the crowds in Calais " enveloped by teargas"

Demolition teams moved through the southern sector of the Calais camp, known as the "Jungle", earlier in the week as part of the French government's move to relocate the migrants from makeshift huts to nearby shipping containers.

'Police response justified'

On Monday, riot police fired tear gas after people resisted and threw rocks.

Gilles DeBove, of the Calais Police Union, said no children were tear gassed and the "police response was justified".

He added: "Police were trying to destroy unused cabins. Migrants and activists wouldn't move - they could've died if we hadn't used tear gas. Does the Bishop of Dover therefore this it's fair for migrants to throw rocks at police? Or to deliberately start fires in the Calais Jungle?"

At least four people, including activists from the UK-based No Borders group, were arrested during Monday's unrest, police said.

Squads armed with with shields, batons, helmets and tear gas were met with little resistance on Tuesday.

Many migrants fear they will be required to claim asylum in France, not Britain.

French authorities estimated that about 1,000 migrants were affected by the eviction plan but aid agencies put the number of people living there as much higher.

Those living in the camp, mainly from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa, hope to cross the Channel to the UK, often using people traffickers to try to enter illegally.

The Jungle in numbers

Image copyright AFP
  • Total camp population is disputed - Calais officials say it houses 3,700, while Help Refugees puts it at 5,497
  • Figures for the southern half (facing immediate eviction threat) are estimated at either 800-1,000 or 3,455
  • There are 205 women and 651 children (423 unaccompanied), according to Help Refugees
  • Local government's long-term aim is to have no more than 2,000 migrants living in Calais, says its chief, Fabienne Buccio

In pictures: Anger as 'Jungle' cleared

Tea, rivalry and ambition at 'Jungle hotel'

Jungle migrants prepare to move

Migrants resist relocation to containers

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