France orders expulsion of big swath of Calais migrant camp

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Authorities issued an expulsion order Friday for hundreds of migrants living in a huge swath of the Calais camp in northern France, demanding that they remove their makeshift homes and possessions within four days.

Residents of the southern sector of the camp, known locally as "the jungle," must clear out by 8 p.m. Tuesday so it can be razed, according to the order by the state authority for Calais. Police will remove those who refuse to clear out, the order said.

Authorities estimate that 800-1,000 migrants live in that sector, crammed with shops, cafes, mosques and churches. They want the migrants — mainly Syrians, Iraqis, or Afghans escaping conflict, or Africans fleeing countries with poor human rights records — to move to nearby heated containers or welcome centers around France to reconsider their dreams of reaching Britain on the other side of the English Channel.

The expulsion order came a week after Prefect Fabienne Buccio announced that the southern sector of the 18-hector camp on the edge of Calais would be razed. She said those living in the area — the most built-up section of the camp housing a total of around 4,000 migrants — would have a week to move.

Humanitarian groups say the number of people living in the southern section are many more than 1,000.

Eight associations working in the camp, including Doctors of the World, sent a protest letter on Thursday to the French interior minister contending that alternatives proposed by the state are "very far from answering the needs of the problems encountered" and predicted migrants who refuse them could scatter along the coast. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve countered in a written reply that the evacuation would go ahead "progressively."

No time limit has been set to clear the area, which has become a mini-slum town.

The order cited a series of problems, from violence by migrants trying to slow traffic to jump on a truck to growing anti-migrant tensions among extreme-right elements, a lack of hygiene and human dignity.