Work begins to tear down Calais Jungle camp

Updated: 

French authorities are to start clearing the squalid refugee camp in Calais known as the "Jungle" and dispersing its residents across the country.

The clearing of the settlement is scheduled to begin on Monday morning, with buses used to transport the majority of the camp's estimated 6,500 residents to temporary accommodation centres.

Dismantling of the camp is then expected to begin on Tuesday, a spokesman for the French interior ministry said.

He told the Press Association: "Our priority is to welcome immigrants in order to protect them in France in good structures, good houses.

"We hope there will be numerous (people) but we don't know, and we hope to welcome just on Monday about 2,000-3,000 people."

Ahead of the looming eviction, violence in the camp flared, with tear gas released by police on Saturday and Sunday evenings amid clashes involving small rocks being thrown.

Camp residents yelled and jeered as a convoy of police vans drove by the edge of the camp as darkness fell on Sunday.

Protesters from the No Borders group are also reported to have travelled to Calais in an effort to frustrate the evictions.

Over the last 48 hours, volunteers have been delivering thousands of rucksacks and urging residents to be prepared to leave in a bid to minimise the risk of violence.

Refugees queued for hours in the muddy, waterlogged main thoroughfare running through the centre of the camp for bags to pack their belongings into.

From Monday, 60 buses are expected to take thousands of the camp's residents to temporary reception centres where they will have to claim asylum in France within a set period of time or face deportation.

It is believed they will be sorted into groups of families, minors, vulnerable or ill people and others travelling alone at a registration centre at the edge of the camp and given coloured wristbands depending on which region they say they would like to be sent to.

Aid workers are advising refugees to register for the buses together as they believe this will give certain groups of friends or communities the best chance of being moved together and not separated.

A further 85 buses are expected to arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday as the mass eviction continues.

Those who refuse to leave Calais risk being arrested and deported, charities warn.

The UK government has called for as many unaccompanied children with links to the UK as possible to be transferred from the camp before it is closed.

Some 70 young people who have come to the UK from the camp will be housed in emergency accommodation in Devon before being reunited with family members or moved to other parts of the country.

The latest groups of refugee children to arrive in the UK from the camp have kept hidden behind a screen, with campaigners insisting this was to protect them rather than to hide their age - a subject which has been the focus of much debate in recent days.

Immigration minister Robert Goodwill said: "We are absolutely committed to safeguarding and protecting children in Calais and have already transferred a considerable number of unaccompanied minors to the UK so far this year.

"We are working closely with our French partners and the immediate priority is to ensure those who remain in the camp are provided with secure accommodation during the clearance operation. UK officials will continue to identify those eligible to come to Britain.

"Our focus is, and will continue to be, transferring all eligible minors to the UK as soon as possible and ensuring they arrive safely. This must be done through an agreed and proper process and with the agreement of the French."