Some of the biggest names in British film and television have made a desperate plea for the safety of unaccompanied migrant children.
Jude Law and other big names travelled to the so-called Jungle camp in northern France, days before at least half of it is due to be demolished.
While there, he read out an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, calling for those children with families in the UK to be allowed to stay with them while their asylum applications are heard.
‘Who knows what’s going to happen to them?’
He urged the French authorities to protect the remaining children.
“It is a community that they built and it offers a minor thread to the children who are here unaccompanied. Without those who knows what’s going to happen to them,” Law said.
Over 100,000 people have signed the letter, including prominent actors such as Idris Elba, Helena Bonham Carter and Benedict Cumberbatch.
At least 1,000 people evicted
The Calais authorities say the demolition will affect around 1,000 people. Aid agencies, such as Help Refugees, estimate the figure will be 3,455, including 445 children, three quarters of whom are unaccompanied.
The camp’s population is estimated to be between 4,000 and 6,000. Its inhabitants mainly hail from the Middle East and Africa. They are reluctant to be relocated elsewhere in France when the demolition takes place as they believe the Calais site offers their best hope of reaching the UK — just under 34 km away through the Channel Tunnel.
Push to seek asylum
French authorities say the whole of the ‘Jungle’ is forecast to be cleared. They are hoping migrants will agree to be bussed to reception centres in other parts of France. Once there, they will be expected to seek asylum or, in some cases, be deported.
Others will be housed in containers converted into living spaces with heating and sanitation. However, fingerprint technology is used to access the housing and some are reluctant to have their details digitally recorded.
Doctors of the World and seven other NGOs wrote to the French Interior Ministry on Thursday (February 18) to argue that the alternative accommodation proposed by the authorities was “very far from answering the problems” of the migrants. They suggested many would flee along France’s northern coast and set up new shantytowns.
Tuesday evening deadline
For the moment, those living in the southern half of the ‘Jungle’ have until 8 pm local time on Tuesday (February 23) to leave voluntarily. Those remaining the following morning will be forcibly evicted.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says the settlement will be evacuated “progressively.”
The eviction order cites a number of problems created by the camp’s presence. These include: migrants trying to slow traffic in order to jump aboard lorries and other HGVs bound for Britain; building tensions with far-right-wing activists; and a lack of hygiene and human dignity.