Violence has flared at the notorious ‘jungle’ refugee camp in Calais as the countdown to its planned demolition enters its final hours.
French riot police fired tear gas to disperse migrants reportedly throwing stones and lighting fires as the sun set on the final night for many living in the sprawling camp.
Over the next 24 hours French authorities will begin the mass evacuation of at least 6,500 refugees, many of them families and unaccompanied children, estimated to be living in the camp.
Once they have been registered, 60 buses are set to transport the first 3,000 migrants to temporary reception centres scattered across France on Monday.
The demolition is due to begin on Tuesday and by the end of the week the camp will have been emptied and destroyed.
Those who refuse to leave Calais risk being arrested and deported, charities have warned.
Many don’t know where they will be sent and volunteers and officials were still handing out leaflets to migrants, informing them of the clearance plans on Sunday.
British and French authorities have faced particular criticism over their handling of unaccompanied children, with charities and aid groups describing their handling of the issue as “shambolic”.
Dozens of minors have come to the UK in recent days, including the first under the so-called Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act which allows the most at-risk child refugees in Italy, Greece and France to be taken to the UK for sanctuary.
But Europe Correspondent Mark Stone, who is at the ‘jungle’ camp, said French and British authorities are racing against time to assess hundreds more, still stranded in the camp. It is feared some could be lost in the chaos of the demolition.
Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said: “… both France and Britain have left this until the last minute when they should have been working together to protect children and teenagers many months ago.
“Hundreds of children and teenagers remain in the camp and at risk. They should be the priority now. France and Britain need to work together urgently now to get the remaining children into safety.”
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants’ chief executive Saira Grant said: “It is a welcome development that five months after passing a law to help unaccompanied minor children we are finally seeing some being brought over. The process, unfortunately, has been shambolic.
However, Immigration minister Robert Goodwill said the UK is “committed” to ensuring the safety of unaccompanied children.
“We are absolutely committed to safeguarding and protecting children in Calais and have already transferred a considerable number of unaccompanied minors to the UK so far this year,” he said.
“Our focus is, and will continue to be, transferring all eligible minors to the UK as soon as possible and ensuring they arrive safely. This must be done through an agreed and proper process and with the agreement of the French.”
(c) Sky News 2016: Clashes as refugees in Calais ‘jungle’ face demolition day
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.