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Refugees to leave as 'Jungle' camp demolition nears

Reporter: Elena Casas 丨 CCTV.com

10-24-2016 09:31 BJT

Migrants and refugees at the camp near Calais will have to leave as French authorities are set to demolish the settlement from Monday. Government workers handed out leaflets in nine languages, notifying residents of the imminent closure.

Sixty buses are to take thousands of the refugees -- including around 1,300 unaccompanied children -- to temporary accommodation centers where they can claim asylum. The migrants and refugees are mostly from Afghanistan and sub-Saharan African nations including Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

Authorities say the evacuation will take a week. But some migrants are still not giving up, as they wait anxiously to see if a French judge will approve the government plan to demolish part of the camp.

Charity groups here say the future of more than 3,400 people hangs in the balance - as a court decides whether to demolish this refugee camp. Hundreds of unaccompanied children are among them.

Most travelled from Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria - some are as young as ten.
The camp's center for women and children offers food, clothing, activities and support.
Volunteers say some children who arrived here traumatized and violent have now started to play with toys again - but they fear all this good work could be undone if they're forced to move.

"They've had long journeys, difficult backgrounds, and some of them have been here sadly as long as five months - they have had a consistency and regular access to basic needs, so they've kind of settled a little bit - obviously none of us want them to stay here, but this move obviously is causing them a lot of distress," said Liz Clegg, founder of Calais Women and Children's Center.

The team here fear they'll move to other, less organized camps with no infrastructure - and the volunteers won't be able to track them down.

They're not the only ones worried about where residents will go if the 'Jungle' is destroyed.

Belgium introduced special border checks on Wednesday - to keep them out.

Here on the Belgian side of the border an extra 250 police have been deployed to carry out random passport checks on passing vehicles. The Belgian interior minister has made it clear the aim is to prevent anyone evicted from the Calais camp from crossing into Belgium.

French authorities say squalid conditions and incidents of violence at the camp prompted their plan to bulldoze parts - and their goal is to move refugees into these re-purposed shipping containers.

Many refugees say they don't want to do that - and fear being fingerprinted and registered in France will keep them from reaching their preferred destination - Britain.

Charity groups say the UK needs to take responsibility for some of the people here with ties to Britain- and they've brought legal cases in London on behalf of a few young people. The law, they say, allows families to be reunited.

Ibrahim is 17 and wants to join his mother in Birmingham, where she has asylum status. He didn't want to show his face on camera.

"My family is in the UK, so I've got a lawyer there and also here in France, they're working on my case, I've been to court, they approved that I should reunite with my family, but now the UK court needs to decide," said Iraqi refugee Ibrahim.

He has been waiting three months. The decision may take many more.

But he's seen as one of the lucky ones here. Most have no access to a lawyer and nowhere else to go if French authorities follow through with their plan to destroy half the camp.

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