CALAIS, France – French state representatives went from tent to tent on Friday trying to convince residents in a sprawling migrant camp in the port city of Calais to leave, a day after a court ruled that a mass eviction could go ahead.
Authorities wanted a ruling allowing them to raze the camp, where thousands of migrants from the world's trouble spots have gathered to try to sneak across the English Channel to Britain via ferry or a Eurotunnel rail service. But Thursday's court decision fell short of allowing a complete destruction of buildings at the site, concluding that the makeshift shelters where migrants sleep can be demolished — but that common spaces like places of worship, schools and a library that have sprung up must stand.
With the status of the camp — known as the "jungle" — under international scrutiny, officials have taken a cautious approach — using persuasion instead of force to pry migrants from their shelters in a process that could take many weeks.
French authorities have offered to relocate those uprooted by the eviction order in the southern portion of the makeshift camp, either in heated containers installed last month nearby or at centers around France where they may choose to apply for asylum.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says 2,700 migrants along the northern French coast have been sent to centers since October.
Only five people were seen climbing into one of two buses at midday Friday. The other bus left empty.
"We try to tell them that they are free ... to make their own decisions," said Nathalie Seys of the Social Services Department, part of a team combing the camp, "and that, unlike what we are hearing, they will not be prisoners."
Activists also making the rounds of tents and makeshift shelters were warning residents not to leave or "their homes will be destroyed."
Thursday's complex ruling has seeded confusion and Julie Bonnier, one lawyer in the case which pitted numerous associations and hundreds of migrants against the state claimed on Friday that the language was too fuzzy to allow the decision to be acted upon.