Clearance of the Calais "Jungle" camp in France on October 25, 2016
Calais migrant camp demolition begins
02:00 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Between 7,000 and 10,000 refugees were living in the Jungle

Many migrants are being bused to several provinces in France

Calais, France CNN  — 

French officials have said they will officially close the migrant camp known as “The Jungle” by nightfall Wednesday and will begin bulldozing the settlement.

France on Monday began the process of registering thousands of migrants living at the camp after vowing for months to shut it down. By Wednesday morning, more than 4,400 migrants had been processed and bused out of Calais to other regions of the country.

French riot police officers hold back migrants Monday as an operation began to clear the camp.

“It really is now the end of the Jungle. We will finish at the time needed, but no matter what, tonight the Calais Jungle will shut down,” Calais prefect Fabienne Buccio told reporters.

“So it shows that we have arrived at the goal, and that our mission, which was to give shelter to the immigrants of the camp, is complete. We are proud, and it is an exceptional moment that we have experienced.”

Calais prefecture officials said all of the camp’s migrants will have been resettled by the end of Wednesday. But a CNN team at the camp said hundreds of migrants were still there by late afternoon, and that many were refusing to register and be moved to other cities.

Some had cleared out of the camp for a few hours as fires tore through the settlement’s center, from dozens of tents, huts and shipping-container shelters torched by migrants.

Four Afghans were arrested in connection with the fires, Buccio said.

Migrants torched temporary shelters at The Jungle on Wednesday, authorities said.

“The cleaning up process is still underway, even if there are still fires throughout the camp. The migrants running back to the containers are trying to retrieve their personal objects,” Buccio said.

“While the containers were on fire, we had police officers surrounding the area to avoid migrants from getting close for security reasons.”

French authorities previously said they would not use force to have migrants register themselves.

The Jungle is a gritty mosaic of tents and ramshackle huts that sprouted early last year on wasteland in the port city, near the site of a previous camp used in the 1990s.

More than 5,000 migrants have been bused out of the camp since Monday.

It has become the grim symbol of Europe’s migrant crisis and many there have clung to hopes of reaching Britain, just 30 miles away across the English Channel.

French officials said up to 7,000 people were living at The Jungle on Monday before evacuations began, but NGOs told CNN the figure was closer to 10,000.

‘Jungle finished’

The 4 square-kilometer settlement had become more of a shantytown than a camp.

Migrants had set businesses up there, including restaurants, cafes and hair salons, and many saw the camp as a symbols of migrants’ resilience, as much as one of crisis.

Among those refusing to leave is a 16-year-old Afghan boy who spoke to CNN at the camp Wednesday. He still hopes to get to Britain.

He came to the Jungle alone, he said, and has lived there for nine months.

He told CNN his name – Hashoq – but couldn’t say how it was spelled.

“I never learned to write,” he said.

“I go. Jungle finished,” he said, but didn’t know where he planned to go.

He said he had a brother in the British city of Birmingham, but said he had refused to help him get to the UK.

“I’m here working, working, trying to go to England.”

From Camille Verdier in Paris, and Sebastian Shukla and Simon Cullen in London