With bulldozers and other heavy machinery scheduled to begin demolishing the Calais migrant jungle camp in France Tuesday, aid workers expressed concerns that the planned closure will lead to chaos, allowing traffickers to exploit vulnerable children and women.
According to the French interior ministry, children will be packed into the camp's converted shipping containers while the rest of the Jungle is dismantled, amidst concern for their safety.
The first busload of migrant children that are to be resettled in the U.K. arrived last Monday, crossing the Channel to be reunited with family members in the country.
Aid groups are particularly concerned that the planned closure of the camps will lead to chaotic disarray that may mean losing track of many children, who could fall prey to traffickers. This is precisely what happened after camp evictions in February led to 129 missing children.
In response, 11 French organizations went to a court in the French city of Lille in a bid to suspend the camp’s dismantlement, but last Tuesday the court rejected that appeal, saying that the camp's dismantling "does not disregard the principle of prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment."
While there is a concern for the children who will be left behind at the camp, persistently intense xenophobia continues to foment rejection of the idea of any migrants being transferred from the blighted port to shelters in far-flung corners of France.
With 75 beds across France being made available in centers to migrants at the camp, French citizens are rejecting the idea.
The anti-immigrant sentiments have led to angry marches, such as the one that happened most recently in the town of Allex, where hundreds gathered to protest the arrival of 50 migrants at a local château the government converted into a shelter.
“We won’t let our town become another Calais,” said a 45-year-old father of three present at the march.
“The migrants won’t integrate themselves,” said another 74-year-old resident.
Meanwhile, the French interior ministry said it "does not want to use force but if there are migrants who refuse to leave, or NGOs who cause trouble, the police might be forced to intervene".