Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 12:23 UK

Resigned migrants rounded up

By Chris Mason
BBC News, Calais

French riot police assemble in the makeshift migrant camp in Calais, France, 22 September 2009
Several hundred French riot police were involved in the operation

The operation began at 0739 (0539 GMT). Clutching batons and riot helmets, 600 officers from the CRS - the French riot police - moved into the rough patch of wasteland known here as "the jungle".

Local residents, who live within yards of the camp, looked on from their front doorsteps.

A vociferous and passionate group of human rights protesters chanted: "No border, no nation, stop deportation".

They threw a rope around some of the migrants to symbolically separate them from the police.

A small number of protesters were arrested during minor scuffles.


But the migrants themselves - at least those of them that are still here - remained calm, and resigned to the inevitable.

Some 278 were taken in by the police. None of them were women, but 132 said they were children. Some looked as young as 13 or 14 years old.

Bulldozers clear the makeshift camp in Calais after migrants were evacuated in Calais,22 September 2009
What remains of the camp now is a deserted patch of wasteland

The children have been taken to nearby reception centres, the adults to police stations.

What remains is now a deserted patch of wasteland, encircled by police - and the makeshift shacks and tents the migrants used to call home.

Signs erected forlornly last night - which said "Please don't destroy our jungle - this is our home" - appear to have gone.

Damp pieces of plywood and empty bottles compete for space on the litter-strewn ground.

A tatty, ripped pair of dark trousers lies abandoned in the grass, next to half a loaf of stale, sliced white bread.

A single training shoe sits next to the camp's only tap - where, until the last few days, up to 1,500 migrants would wash.

'Successful operation'

As I walk around the camp's perimeter, a policeman who has been on duty since the small hours stifles a yawn. Realising I have spotted him doing so, he smiles nervously.

These are desperate people. And they are desperate to get to the UK

His superiors are pleased with what the officers have achieved today.

The head of the local police says the operation has been a success - and the men detained will be offered the chance to apply for asylum, or to return home. For most of them, home means Afghanistan.

But for the authorities, measuring success is difficult.

The migrants knew their camp was going to be bulldozed. And most, by this morning, had already moved on.

These are desperate people. And they are desperate to get to the UK.

Many suspect a new camp - just as squalid, just as makeshift and just as illegal - is likely to be set up nearby very soon.

Print Sponsor

Police clear French migrant camp
22 Sep 09 |  Europe
Immigrant amnesty 'road to hell'
17 Mar 09 |  UK Politics

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific