LILLE, France (Reuters) - French authorities will dismantle the remaining half of the “Jungle” migrant camp near Calais “as quickly as possible” as the town struggles to cope with a new wave of arrivals, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Friday.
In February and March authorities dismantled the southern half of the camp, where thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing war or poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have massed, hoping to make their way to Britain.
About 7,000 migrants are living in the remaining northern half of the camp, up from 4,500 in June, according to local authorities, although humanitarian groups put the number closer to 9,000.
“I want the closure of the camp as quickly as possible,” Cazeneuve told reporters, saying it would be done methodically.
He said thousands of new shelters and welcome centers would be created to accommodate migrants in the coming months, but that he would also increase the number of police officers in the region to help manage the crisis.
Calais’ conservative mayor, Natacha Bouchart, told reporters she had received assurances after meeting Cazeneuve that the camp would be dismantled in one go, although he had given no timeframe.
Migrants’ efforts to force their way through the Channel Tunnel or to stow away aboard trucks have disrupted traffic between France and Britain and forced French police to maintain a large deployment in the area.
Residents and businesses have increasingly complained that the situation is having an impact on them with local authorities unable to control the situation.
Reporting By Pierre Savary; writing by John Irish