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John Lichfield Paris | 25 February 2016 | THE INDEPENDENT
A French court has approved plans to clear part of the Jungle refugee camp near Calais but ordered the French government to spare the makeshift huts used as schools, a cinema, kitchens and places of worship.
The administrative court in Lille gave the authorities permission to flatten the southern part of the sprawling camp in dunes north of Calais which houses Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and east African migrants seeking to enter Britain.
Ten local charitable organisations and pressure groups and 250 migrants sought a court order on Tuesday to prevent the French government from clearing part of the camp. They argued that the residents – 1,000 according to the police, 3,450 according to the inhabitats – had nowhere else to go.
The court decided that the expulsions were justified but refused authorities permission to demolish “social areas” such as schools, kitchens and a mosque.
The decision means that French police can, in theory, begin to clear the southern part of the camp on Friday. In practise, the demolition is likely to be spread over many days.
Officials said that there would be no “forced expulsions”. Efforts would be made to persuade the inhabitants that it was in their own interest to move into official shelters in the northern part of the camp or accommodation elsewhere in France.
The interior minister, Berbard Cazeneuve, said that the court decision, was a recognition of the “truth” of the situation in Calais not the “postures and manipulations” of pressure groups supporting the migrants.
Michel Janssens from the charity Medecins sans Frontieres said migrants cleared from the camp would end up squatting or sleeping rough elsewhere. “It’s not human to do that,” he said. “We are not fighting for them to keep the camp but for the occupants to be given adequate and humane lodging.”
The government announced earlier this month that most of the Jungle must be cleared by the end of March. Only the “official” part of the camp containing shipping containers converted to shelters for men and a hostel for women and children would be allowed to remain. This would give space only for 1,500 of the 3,000 to 4,000 asylum seekers now officially said to be living in the whole of the Jungle. Pressure groups put the total population at around double that figure.
Migrants will be offered places in transit camps in other parts of France where they can start the procedure for seeking French asylum if they wish. In the past, most have refused do so and made their way back to Calais.