French police demolish Calais camp; Macedonian police fires tear gas at refugees

February 29, 2016
Calais refugee camp.

French riot police fired tear gas as they began demolishing the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp on February 29, Morning Star Online said.

Tear gas was reportedly used in response to stone-throwers at the shanty town, which is home to about 4000 people. Lines of police vans gathered on the perimeter of the camp's southern section and people were prevented from entering the site.

A Doctors of the World spokesperson said basic supplies and care materials were being prepared for those evicted, but the charity's medics had been unable to gain access as the entrance was blocked by police.

The mass eviction started after a French judge ruled on February 25 that a partial clearance should go ahead, excluding social spaces such as schools and places of worship.

Residents have been offered beds in converted shipping containers — each sleeping 12 — with fingerprint-activated locks. But many have refused, fearing that the fingerprinting process is just a ruse to make it more difficult for them to travel to Britain.

British campaigners condemned the camp clearance and the heavy-handed police methods used to achieve it. Rights organisation Liberty said political leaders should not be “looking away” from the plight of refugees at the Jungle, including unaccompanied children.

British charity Help Refugees representative Tanya Freedman said: “We're very disappointed because French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve insisted in a public statement that the clearance would be done in a humane fashion.

“On the first major day of dismantling, this is the way they are going about things.”

Don Flynn of the Migrants' Rights Network said: “This is a distressing development that will do nothing to deal with the real issues.

“We know from past eviction exercises that it will simply scatter the refugees across a wider area of northern France and still leave them with all the dangers of an insecure and vulnerable existence.

“Rather than talk to the people in the Jungle about their real needs for a safe haven, the French authorities, with the full backing of the British government, favour inflicting police raids, bulldozers and even greater hardship on the refugees.”

At the same time, at least 22,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded for days in Greece since border restrictions began along other countries in the Balkan corridor, TeleSUR English said on February 29.

Macedonian police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of refugees who stormed the border from Greece that day, tearing down a gate as frustrations boiled over at restrictions imposed on people moving through the Balkans.

About 8000 people gathered at Idomeni, the small frontier community on Greece's border with Macedonia. Most were Syrians and Iraqis.

Earlier on February 29, a crush had developed along the frontier after rumors spread that Macedonian authorities had opened the border after several hours of it remaining sealed shut.

Crowds who gathered at the razor wire fence proceeded to use a heavy metal pole to bring down a gate by digging beneath the barrier and using force to push it up and out. At least two people collapsed in the crush and ensuing use of tear gas, Reuters television images showed.

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