February 26, 2016

Lille’s administrative court has validated the French government’s decision to demolish and evacuate the southern part of the “Jungle” camp in the northern port city of Calais.

“The order is applicable, except for common social areas [places of worship or schools],” the spokesman for the Pas-de-Calais prefect’s office said Thursday.

Last week, French authorities said residents of the southern half of what is commonly known as the “Jungle” had until 19:00 on Tuesday to leave. However, a French court– looking into the legality of such a move– said it was delaying its ruling, thus automatically delaying the eviction.

The presence of large numbers of refugees in the area has persisted since 1999 when the Red Cross Sangatte reception center became rapidly overcrowded and the “Jungle” was established in late 2014. The presence of more than 4,000 refugees– attracted by the nearby Channel tunnel terminal and the Calais port as a route to the U.K.– have been a constant in the area despite French attempts to disperse them.

The French government said the move aimed at reducing the population of the Jungle to 2,000 people and that it would only affect between 800 and 1,000 people who would be moved into refitted shipping containers set up nearby.

But according to Calais Migrant Solidarity, a charity working in the Calais camp, “there are still more than 5,000 undocumented people. Many more are on their way.” The U.K.-based NGO Calais Action said the exact figure was 5,497, with around 3,450 people living in the southern part, including 300 unaccompanied children.

Belgium temporarily introduced controls on its border with France on Tuesday in a bid to prevent possible refugee movement in case the camp was evacuated.

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