Jungle clearance declared a success despite concerns over fate of many minors
French government officials have declared the operation to clear the Calais 'Jungle' a success despite charities on the ground reporting that hundreds of child refugees had been left unregistered and with nowhere to go.
Pascal Brice, head of the Office for Refugees and Stateless People, said everybody leaving the squalid camp had been registered at the processing centre on the edge of the site.
He spoke as firefighters fought to tackle a series of fires blamed by officials on disgruntled refugees and migrants.
But charities working with the refugees immediately contradicted the official declaration, claiming the warehouse used to register camp dwellers had been closed before many unaccompanied children living in the Jungle had been processed and transported to alternative accommodation elsewhere in France.
And migrants and refugees could be seen still walking with their belongings towards the warehouse, while other groups sat waiting in the sun in the road leading to it.
Mr Brice told reporters on Wednesday afternoon: "The operation will be over tonight because all the people who were leaving the Jungle are now welcomed in France, in good conditions in accommodation centres.
"It is a matter of satisfaction for the French administration because all those people now are in centres all around France and the Jungle is over."
Some 4,404 migrants and refugees and around 1,200 minors have passed through the registration warehouse since the beginning of the operation, the French Interior Ministry said.
A spokeswoman for the local prefecture said that the rate of demolition would be scaled up on Thursday with larger machinery moving in.
Save The Children said it was "extremely concerned" about minors who had not been registered as the site went up in flames.
Around 100 children were waiting to be processed when the warehouse was "swiftly" closed, the charity said, adding that there were hundreds with nowhere to go.
The Help Refugees charity estimated that about 300 children were turned away when the registration centre closed and many were standing under a nearby bridge not knowing what to do.
"The authorities need to get them into safety now," it tweeted.
Several large fires started tearing through caravans, tents and shelters in the centre of the camp a little before midday on Wednesday, the third day of the operation to clear it.
Four migrants have been arrested in connection with the fires, said Patrick Visser-Bourdon, the Calais police commissioner in charge of the operation, dismissing suggestions British activists were responsible.
The sound of exploding gas canisters could be heard as the flames ripped through what had recently been makeshift homes.
Firefighters used hoses to battle the flames gutting the Peace restaurant, which days ago was serving tea to residents.
A bus for women and children and a makeshift youth centre were also burned down, according to Help Refugees.
As the fires spread, police ushered people out of the camp, many of whom held fabric to their mouths and noses to protect against the thick black smoke.