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Migrants sew lips together in Calais 'Jungle' camp protest

Published 02/03/2016

Demolition continues at the Calais migrant camp known as the Jungle, in northern France
Demolition continues at the Calais migrant camp known as the Jungle, in northern France

Migrants facing eviction from the camp in Calais known as the Jungle sewed their lips together to protest at their treatment by France.

At least five men staged the protest and held aloft banners as bulldozers cleared ramshackle homes in the slum for a third successive day.

One banner read: "I left my country and I came here to find my human rights but unfortunately I have found NONE."

Another read: "Where is your democracy? Where is our freedom?"

French CRS riot officers armed with tear gas, batons and riot shields stood by as the protest was held peacefully.

A flashpoint erupted a short distance away when a fight broke out between a knife-wielding man and another migrant in front of dozens of others.

It ended when the suspected victim fled into the crowds from the man who was brandishing a small kitchen knife of around five inches long.

Elsewhere, a shack went up in flames as clearance continued at the camp, which is home to around 4,000 migrants and refugees, many of whom are intent on reaching Britain.

Migrants and refugees who have fled war, poverty and persecution looked on as bulldozers dismantled shacks and piled belongings into containers.

One migrant, a 22-year-old man from Darfur, Sudan, who declined to be named, said the French authorities have treated them like "animals".

He said: "One of the reasons to go to England is because you can see what life is like for us in France. We have been in this camp living like this for six months.

"We have been treated like animals. We know that we are not above the law but what they are doing is very aggressive."

In an effort to halt the slow tear-down, some people sat on top of the flimsy homes as banks of CRS officers watched the crowds in the camp's southern area.

Local government official Vincent Berton said France was focused on finding a better solution for the migrants and refugees, particularly the children.

He said the operation to clear the Jungle's southern section would last three weeks. And the overall aim was to halve the population size of the sprawling site to around 2,000.

He told the Press Association: "We are trying not to shift the problem. We are very focused. We are trying for a better solution especially for the children."

French authorities want to relocate people from the rat-infested site to heated containers nearby or to centres around France where they can apply for asylum. State authorities have said up to 1,000 people will be affected.

But aid workers say the figure is likely to be much higher. Help Refugees said its own analysis revealed there were 3,455 people living in the affected area.

Save The Children said nearly 400 unaccompanied children who have fled war, poverty and persecution live at the site.

Doctors of the World, a medical charity that has been working in Calais since 2003, said safe and legal routes should be established for people seeking sanctuary in the UK.

Its executive director, Leigh Daynes, said: "The French government has not kept its promise to manage safely and gradually a reduction in the camp population.

"Dawn police raids, followed by tear gas and water cannons, are shameful methods to use against those already traumatised by war."

Calais has lived with migrants in its midst for years, but the current camp on the city's edge sprang up around a day centre opened last April by the state - and has grown explosively.

The estimated 4,000 people now camped at the Jungle are significantly fewer than the 6,000 that were there in December.

Repeated bids to cross the Channel to Britain have been made by migrants, prompting an Anglo-French operation to bolster security around the ports, including the erection of razor-topped fences.

Some have criticised the decision to send in demolition teams, including Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who said razing the camp was not the solution.

But British hauliers welcomed last week's court judgment.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said mass disruption caused by migrants cost the UK freight industry an estimated £750,000 a day last year.

FTA officials said a solution needed to be found to protect the £89 billion of UK trade which passes through cross-Channel ports annually.

Many truckers have reported facing intimidation and violence from migrants attempting to climb into their HGVs for passage to Britain.

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