Migrants living in the Calais “Jungle Camp” who were given an eviction notice to relocate before the bulldozers move in have been cooperating peacefully.
French police ordered residents to vacate a third of the makeshift camp to make room for converted shipping containers fitted with electricity and heating.
Since the basic accommodation will only provide room for up to 1,500 refugees, many people are expected to lose their temporary home and be left to survive in extremely muddy and wet conditions.
Caroline Gregory, from Help Refugees a non-profit organisation, which has been instrumental in providing aid for refugees in Calais, said that the situation was changing hourly.
She said: “There is no exact deadline, and evictions would be very slow and gradual if and when they happen — no big dramatic event is currently expected. It is unclear how many are affected.”
It has been reported that the “better equipped” camps consist of 12 different bunk beds, including family units and infant beds with windows, power points, some space to store belongings and large (tall) heated towel rails, which serve for drying clothes as well as heating.
Following Monday’s announcement, community leaders inside the camp told French president Francois Hollande that they had no plans to leave the site.
The statement said: “We, the united people of the Jungle, Calais, respectfully decline the demands of the French government with regards to reducing the size of the jungle. We have decided to remain where we are and will peacefully resist the government’s plans to destroy our homes.”
“We have decided to remain where we are and will peacefully resist the government plans to destroy our homes. We plead with the French authorities and the international communities that you understand our situation and respect our fundamental human rights,” they added.
Since then, many of the refugees in the clearance area have decided they want to move. However, there is a group that have decided to stay put and peacefully resist.
Gregory added: “Of course we work alongside them and respect their wishes.”
Volunteers from both Help Refugees in coalition with L’auberge, a small local charity, who runs all the building and volunteer programmes) are currently trying to relocate people into the danger zone.
The priority has been to help families and women move first and then to ensure they have enough trusted friends around them to create a community that can look out for one another.
Despite the upheaval, the volunteers are remaining positive with Help Refugees releasing a statement yesterday afternoon.
“Despite the near freezing temperatures (4 degrees) it’s all hands on deck in Calais today with huge progress being made for the relocation of approx 2000 people from the ‘100 metre buffer zone’ around the public highways that the Calais Sub-prefecture marked out on Monday.
“Working with Acted and Médicins San Frontièrs, teams of volunteers have cleared new ground to accommodate tents and shelters, have built over 40 new shelters, moved nearly all the caravans, and have overseen the relocation of more than 100 of the existing shelters.
“The refugee communities are mobilized and continue to come up with ingenious methods to carry their shelters from one area in the camp to another. Moving house has never been so literal! Tents have also been cleared with over 120 moved to new locations.
“We aim to complete all the relocations and have everyone out of the ‘buffer zone’ by the end of this weekend. No official statement has been given for when the bulldozers will begin to clear this area. We are optimistic that with everyone working together the transition can be managed smoothly.”
There are plans for a similar official camp site to be built in Dunkirk, located just 30 minutes away from Calais, with conditions being described as “inhumane.”