Crews Start Dismantling French Camp While Migrants Remain | NBC 6 South Florida
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Crews Start Dismantling French Camp While Migrants Remain

The demolition took place under the watch of police officers as authorities are emptying the camp of an estimated 6,300 people who have been living there

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    Thousands of migrants began to leave the crowded Calais camp on Oct. 24, 2016, as French authorities prepared to dismantle the settlement. (Published Monday, Oct. 24, 2016)

    Crews in hard hats and orange jumpsuits on Tuesday started dismantling a makeshift camp in France that has become a symbol of Europe's migrant crisis while thousands of people remained there waiting to be relocated.

    The workers used their gloved hands to tear down flimsy plywood shelters, tarp-covered huts and other temporary buildings at the camp in the port city of Calais known as "the jungle." Backhoes, construction dumpsters and trucks carted off the debris.

    The demolition took place under the watch of police officers as authorities are emptying the camp of an estimated 6,300 people who have been living there, down from a height of 10,000 this summer.

    Earlier in the day, police were deployed to keep order among young migrants as French authorities entered the second day of a planned weeklong mass evacuation and closure of the camp.

    Dozens of migrants pushed barriers and jumped over railings to get to the temporary processing center at the camp, the first step to being relocated elsewhere in France and the chance to apply for asylum.

    Most identified themselves as unaccompanied minors with relatives across the English Channel in the United Kingdom.

    Hassan Ali, a 25-year-old Pakistani who was among the crowds at the gates to the processing center early in the morning, said he was excited to get resettled and that his 3-month stay at the Calais camp had been "an experience of life."

    Ali said he hoped to return to university and find a job in France, having been unable to make it to Britain.

    On Monday, authorities started emptying people from the makeshift camp that emerged 18 months ago on the French side of the English Channel as the first step toward its demolition.

    To discourage migrants from congregating in Calais and trying to board a ferry or truck to Britain, authorities last year destroyed half the camp in a haphazard and sometimes violent way that drew criticism from human rights groups.

    Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 1,918 people had been sent to 80 locations around France on day one of the mass evacuations.

    The Calais prefecture said that as of noon on Tuesday 656 additional migrants had boarded buses from Calais to reception centers in other parts of France.

    The prefecture said 539 unaccompanied minors were being housed in heated containers at the camp pending evaluation.

    Volunteers and local government officials invited the remaining migrants to destroy their own shelters and load the fragments into trash bins.

    Many more migrants were preparing to depart Wednesday.

    "People are leaving tomorrow. Lots of people have planned for tomorrow," Abdul Walia, a community leader among the sizable Afghan population of the camp, said.

    Walia said the camp departures have been peaceful, despite the uncertainty for migrants being forced to leave.

    "Lots of people are upset as their hope is to go to England," he said. "But this hope is finished."

    Meanwhile, at the other end of the journey from the "jungle," upbeat migrants stepped off buses in regions all around France to local welcomes.

    Thirty-two Sudanese and one Afghan migrant arrived from Calais to a reception and orientation center in Chatellerault, in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, on Monday evening and were welcomed by local authorities.

    But the welcome in other regions, such as the eastern village of Chardonnay that had a group of Sudanese migrants arrive Monday, have been lukewarm, according to local media.