Fire destroys migrant camp near Dunkirk

TMP – 19/04/2014

A large fire devastated the Grande-Synthe migrant camp outside the northern French city of Dunkirk late on Monday 10 April.

A huge plume of smoke rose from the camp into the night sky and was visible from several miles away, and the fire continued to rage into the early hours of Tuesday.

The entire camp, home to between 1,000 and 1,500 migrants  living in small wooden huts, was destroyed. At least 10 migrants were taken to local hospitals with light injuries following the fire.

“There is nothing left but a heap of ashes,” Michel Lalande, the regional prefect told journalists at the scene. “It will be impossible to put the huts back where they were before,” he added.

Reports indicate that the fire began after a fight broke out between rival Afghan and Kurdish groups in the camp. The police intervened, leading to further clashes.

Local official Olivier Caramelle said: “There must have been fires deliberately set in several different places, it is not possible otherwise.”

“Many of the cabins have burned down or are still on fire, more than half the camp has been destroyed,” the regional prefect’s office said.

Those displaced by the fire have been given alternative lodging in local gymnasiums.

French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux announced last month that the migrant camp would be closed. The population at the Grande-Synthe migrant camp had doubled from around 700 to about 1,500 migrants since the closure in October of the “Jungle” camp near the port of Calais, about 40 kilometres away.

The fire follows several violent incidents at the Grande-Synthe camp in recent months. In March, police intervened after five men were injured in a fight. Another man was stabbed at the camp last November.