Between 6,000 and 8,000 refugees and migrants living in the Calais “jungle” camp to be moved to shelters across France.
France will continue to dismantle the Jungle camp in Calais as hundreds of evicted refugees and migrants await temporary housing in centres across the country.
More than 2,300 camp dwellers – roughly a third of the total – left the shantytown outside the northern port by bus on Monday, with French officials relieved by the peaceful start of the operation after intermittent weekend skirmishes.
An interior ministry spokesman said that the demolition operation would start by hand and that the bulldozers would not roll in immediately in an effort to minimise tensions.
For many of the migrants fleeing war and poverty, the closure of the Jungle marks the end of a dream to reach Britain a tantalisingly short sea crossing away, where most had sought to reunite with family or find work.
There are concerns among some aid workers that camp inhabitants who remain defiant about reaching Britain or become disillusioned with the resettlement process will simply regroup in Calais at a later date.
Nestled in the sand dunes, the Jungle is a symbol of Europe’s failed migration policies as member states bicker over who should take in asylum seekers and economic migrants.
Many have fled countries such as Afghanistan and Syria as well as Eritrea and Sudan.
Britain and France have been at odds over the fate of about 1,300 unaccompanied children.
The French government last week urged Britain to step up its efforts and resettle child migrants and refugees.
On Monday Amber Rudd, UK interior minister, said Britain would take in roughly half of the camp’s children who are alone.
“Then we will have done our commitment to the French,” Rudd said in parliament.
Six months before a presidential election in France, the camp and border controls with Britain are frequently debated campaign themes.
Some conservative opponents of President Francois Hollande want all the migrants and refugees transferred to Britain.
The far-right National Front party said the government plan would create mini-Calais camps across France.