French police clears largest migrant camp near Calais

Around 200 migrants were forced to abandon an informal camp in France after police cleared the area on 12 March 2019.

Before its destruction, the camp, known as the Verrotières or Chemin du Pont-Trouille camp, was the largest in the Calais area. Approximately 200 migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea and Sudan, lived there.

The plan to clear the camp was announced several days in advance. Only 50 people were present during the clearance, according to the organisation Auberge des Migrants.

In his statement to InfoMigrants, spokesperson for Auberge des Migrants, Diego, said: “Everyone knew that there would be an expulsion. Some of them already left a few days ahead, hoping to find new shelters. Others just went to hide, or moved to other smaller camps around Calais.”

Signs were placed around the camp before the clearance, stating that migrants “would be directed to welcome centres and structures, provided by the state, which are adapted to their needs.” According to 20 Minutes, 46 of the camp’s inhabitants accepted the offer and were transferred to reception centres by bus.

The decision to dismantle the camp came after Enedis won a case at the High Court of Boulogne-sur-Mer. The electricity company owns a large portion of the land the migrants were occupying. Now that the camp has been cleared, the company plans to build a fence around the land to avoid another camp forming.  

According to local authorities, the camp “was posing more and more of a problem to economic activities of companies in the area.” Concerns were also raised about the camp being a threat to “security, health and sanitation and human dignity,” especially given the proximity of high-voltage transformers and a busy road to its residents.

In recent years, migrants who hope to cross the English Channel to the United Kingdom have set up informal camps along the northern coast of France. Although the French police frequently dismantles these makeshift camps, migrants often build new ones soon after.

As France and the UK tighten their border security measures, many of the migrants who succeed in making it to British shores are at risk of being returned to France.

TMP – 17/03/2019
Photo: Human Rights Observers/ Twitter. Police at the Verrotières informal camp near Calais evacuate migrants.