A French court has ruled that authorities can evacuate and demolish part of the so-called “Jungle,” the makeshift encampment outside the port city of Calais that is home to thousands of refugees and migrants from Syria and other restive parts of the world.
Estimates of the number of migrants affected by the order range from 1,000 to more than 3,400. The operation won’t touch public places in the camp such as places of worship and schools.
French authorities had originally told migrants to evacuate the 17.5-acre southern half of the camp last week. The evictions were postponed after two humanitarian groups working in Calais, Help Refugees and L’Auberge des Migrants, reported that 3,455 people live in the section of the camp slated to be demolished—over three times the number French officials had estimated. The unofficial census counted more than 300 unaccompanied minors, the youngest of whom is 10. In response, British and French NGOs, along with more than 200 migrants living in Calais, filed an appeal requesting that the court delay demolition until adequate living situations were found for all of the evacuees.
Thursday’s decision in France will be watched closely in the rest of Europe, which is seeing the most-severe refugee crisis since the end of World War II. More than a million people have entered Europe since 2015, fleeing civil war in Syria and unrest elsewhere. Predictably, the influx has raised tensions within individual EU countries and among EU members, who have been unable to agree on a formula on how to equitably distribute the newcomers among the bloc’s member countries.