Migrant crisis: French court approves evictions from Calais 'Jungle' camp

Inhabitants of the migrant camp known as the "Jungle" near the northern French port of Calais.

Story highlights

  • EU Commissioner of Migration warns migration system could break down
  • A court approves a plan to demolish part of the "Jungle" migrant camp
  • Greece is recalling its ambassador to Austria over the migrant crisis

(CNN)A French court has upheld a decision to demolish the southern half of the "Jungle" migrant camp, near the northern French city of Calais, and relocate the migrants living there.

Thursday's court order calls for police to start evacuating the camp.
    Thousands are to be moved from tents to purpose-built shipping containers, equipped with heaters and electricity, in the northern part of the camp, in a bid to improve conditions at the site, a spokesman for the Pas-de-Calais region said earlier this month.
    However, there isn't expected to be enough space in the northern part of the camp, so some migrants are expected to be moved to other locations with better facilities, authorities have said.
    Thousands of people have been living in grim, unsanitary conditions in the camp, one of Europe's most infamous, where they typically base themselves ahead of attempts to make their way illegally into the United Kingdom.
    Fabienne Buccio, prefect of the Pas-de-Calais region, told reporters Thursday that the eviction of the camp would be conducted peacefully, without the use of force.
    "There was never any talk of bulldozers," she said.
    She said the clearance would take place in cooperation with charity associations involved in supporting the migrants, encouraging them to move voluntarily to the better-equipped facilities.
    "There is already a section [of the camp] that has been vacated, and slowly and safely, we hope that it will take a month, maybe more, to complete," she said.
    French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told a press conference that particular care would be taken to support women and minors.
    Migrant support associations willing to assist the evacuation would gather in the coming hours, he said, adding that 500 beds in reception centers were still available.
    The order from the court in Lille stipulated that schools and other areas of the camp dedicated to social and educational activities would not be affected by the clearance.
    Karima Delli, a French member of the European Parliament, described the site last month as "like an open-air prison."
    "It's a question of dignity, we can't allow this," she told reporters.

    EU Commissioner: Migration system at risk of 'breaking down'

    The Lille court order came amid continuing chaos across Europe caused by the ongoing migrant crisis.
    Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Union's Commissioner of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, warned that the EU had until a forthcoming summit with Turkey on March 7 to curb migrant numbers or the system could "completely break down."
    "In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down," he told reporters following a meeting in Brussels.