France is cleaning up a migrant camp near Dunkirk dubbed the “New Jungle” after 1,500 people have settled there.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted on Tuesday that the police had sent to dismantle the camp, located on disused industrial land in the commune of Grande-Synthe.
Thirty police vans filled with officers from the French national reserve police were on site this morning as migrants – including women and young children – packed their bags and were taken away.
The migrants will be taken to nearby “centers” so that their asylum claims can be assessed, local media said. It is not known how many will be allowed to stay in Europe.
French police intervened to clean up a huge migrant camp called New Jungle which had formed in the town of Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk
Around 1,500 migrants, most of whom hoped to make the trip to the UK, have now been taken to asylum centers so their claims can be assessed.
Mr. Darmanin tweeted: “On my instructions, the police proceed this morning to the evacuation of the camp of illegal migrants of Grande-Synthe.
“Thank you to the police and gendarmes mobilized, as well as to the agents of the 59th prefecture who provide their shelter.
The police operation came just hours after Mr Darmanin spoke with his British counterpart Priti Patel about migrant crossings in the Channel, which have reached record levels in recent days despite commitments from both sides of the reduce to zero.
A joint statement released after the phone call pledged greater cooperation between the two countries to make the Channel migration route “unsustainable.”
However, Mr. Darmanin’s office insisted on Tuesday that the evacuation of the Dunkirk camp was not a direct consequence of this call and had been planned in advance.
Emmanuel Macron’s government accused the UK of treating France like a ‘punch ball’ as 1,185 migrants crossed the Channel last Thursday – eclipsing the previous daily record of 853.
London has long accused Paris of not doing enough to stop crossings and threatened to withhold a £ 54million payment agreed earlier this year.
Migrants call the camp the New Jungle after the infamous Calais slum housing 8,000 residents was demolished by the French government several years ago
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin ordered the camp to be dismantled on Tuesday, although his office insisted it was unrelated to Priti Patel’s demand for more action
France insisted that the money would allow them to step up coastal patrols and intercept crossings.
There have been allegations of French inaction on a “Brexit punishment strategy” amid ongoing disputes over fishing rights and border rules in Northern Ireland.
Relations between France and Britain are at their lowest in decades due to a host of disagreements over issues ranging from migrants to fishing in the English Channel, as well as a submarine contract with the Australia.
Migrants have been gathering at the Grande-Synthe site since at least March this year, when French police last emptied the camp.
In an attempt to prevent the return of the migrants, the officers dug up the vacant lots on which they had camped.
But that only prompted them to move to a nearby industrial site and to the ruins of an old paper mill.
Migrants began to congregate in the new camp around September, when there were only a few hundred living there.
But the number tripled in just a few weeks and stood at around 1,500 by the time police intervened.
Most of those camping at the site, located 20 miles from Calais, hoped to reach the UK.
With hundreds more people arriving at the camp each day, it quickly turned into a trash-strewn mess with ankle-deep mud formed in the rain.
Police are pictured clearing the Grande-Synthe camp in March this year, when the number of migrants was a few hundred rather than thousands
The disused factory units surrounding the camp offered little protection from the elements, even as winter sets in.
There weren’t enough toilets for the number of people who lived there, who relied on local charities for food deliveries.
Some were Afghan migrants, among the first to arrive in Europe after the country collapsed almost completely as it fell back into Taliban hands earlier this year.
Others had entered Europe by sneaking across the border between Poland and Belarus, where a crisis is unfolding that the EU accuses Alexander Lukashenko of engineering.
Thousands of people live in dilapidated tents crowded together at Grande Synthe camp, with trash and debris strewn between them. It appears to be based in an industrial unit whose setting offers very little protection from the elements to migrants.