Refugees left behind after the demolition of France’s notorious Calais “jungle” faced a day of reckoning after spending the night in an unused part of the camp.
Around 100 refugees, including minors, ended up being allowed under police escort on Friday to sleep in shelters that remained standing in the former southern section of the slum that was mostly razed in March, a prelude to this week’s clearance operation.
After thousands were taken away on buses over the past two days, the camp next to the northern port of Calais was virtually deserted on Thursday.
Aid workers, scrambling to find a solution, were given permission to take about 100 minors and adults to a small makeshift school in what was once the camp’s southern sector, which was razed by the state in March.
Al Jazeera’s David Chater, reporting from Paris, said other refugees had made their way to the France capital and that tents around Stalingrad Square in the northeast of the capital are spreading rapidly.
“The police have tried to destroy the camp more than 20 times but it still keeps growing, and the word is the refugees from Calais are on their way here,” he said, adding that families with babies and young children were seen living on the pavements in Paris.
Meanwhile, scores were still looking for shelter or refusing to leave the squalid settlement in Calais that has become one of the most visible symbols of Europe’s migrant crisis.
“You can’t say the operation is over when there are people left,” said Anne-Louise Coury, the Doctors Without Borders coordinator in Calais. “The state still has a serious obligation towards migrants who are minors.”
Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart said claims of the “jungle’s” demise were “premature” and demanded “guarantees” that it would not spring up again, once the police had left.
Calais has been a magnet for migrants hoping to sneak across the Channel for more than a decade, and many locals fear new settlements will simply spring up in the area after the Jungle is razed.
La Vie Active, a government-linked charity, said about a third of the camp had been razed by the end of Thursday, and top local official Fabienne Buccio said demolition operations would end on Monday.
Steve Barbet, spokesman for the prefecture, said refugees were seen getting out of cars in front of the registration centre or arriving at the Calais train station.
They joined Calais camp refugees who chose not to be relocated to other parts of France, some clinging to their dream of reaching Britain by hopping on freight trucks crossing the English Channel by ferry or the Eurotunnel train.
Many refugees waited until Wednesday, the last day of the three-day evacuation, to decide whether to take a bus to one of the 450 special centres around France, increasing the chaos.