Calais, France, Oct 24 – The notorious “Jungle” migrant camp on the outskirts of the French port of Calais has for years been a key staging post for migrants trying to smuggle across the Channel to Britain on lorries or trains.
Following are key dates in the history of the sprawling settlement which French authorities were starting to clear on Monday.
– Sangatte closes, Jungle emerges –
In 1999, the Red Cross opens the Sangatte camp near Calais port for migrants sleeping rough in and around the northern French city.
Under pressure from Britain, which sees it as having a “pull” effect on migration, the camp is closed in 2002.
Hundreds of mainly Afghan migrants then set up camp east of Calais, on a patch of scrubland next to a road travelled by lorries heading for Calais port. The migrants call it the Jungle.
In September 2009, the Jungle is demolished for the first time on the orders of then president Nicolas Sarkozy, following a mass police raid in which scores of people are arrested.
– Jungle rebuilt –
In early 2015, a new settlement named the New Jungle sprouts up near a state-run day centre for migrants established at the site. The camp later becomes simply known as the Jungle.
In June, 21 people are injured when a brawl breaks out at night between up to 300 migrants in the camp.
– Clashes, incursions –
From mid-2015 on, migrants attempting to board lorries or enter the Channel Tunnel frequently clash with police around the camp, which mushrooms in size as asylum-seekers pour into Europe in unprecedented numbers.
Most of the 33 migrant deaths in the Calais region since January 2015 have been caused by road accidents, with many losing their lives as they attempted to climb onto lorries heading towards Britain under cover of night.
France’s top administrative court in November raps the government over conditions in the Jungle, describing them as “inhuman”.
In January 2016, the port of Calais is shut for more than three hours after dozens of migrants occupy a moored Britain-bound ferry.
A month later, around 20 people are arrested in Calais at a banned rally by supporters of Germany’s xenophobic Pegida movement.
– Partial demolition, wall starts –
The southern half of the Jungle camp is demolished in late February and early March, sparking protests. Iranian migrants protesting at the destruction of their shacks sew their mouths shut. The evicted migrants moved to the northern part of the camp.
Six months later, pressure to tear down the rest of the camp builds. Protesting lorry drivers and farmers block roads around Calais with their vehicles.
Work begins in September on a four-metre (13-foot) high wall along part of the main port road, to prevent migrants climbing onto trucks.
– Camp closure –
On September 26, President Francois Hollande says the Jungle will be demolished by the end of the year and that the migrants — estimated to number around 6,000 — will be moved to shelters around the country.
A group of charities challenge the demolition on human rights grounds but a court rejects their appeal, saying the migrants’ conditions should be bettered by the camp’s closure.
In the last days of the Jungle, Britain accelerates the transfer of child refugees seeking to be reunited with relatives in Britain, taking in around 200 minors.
On October 21 the interior ministry confirms the operation to tear down the camp will start on Monday.
Migrants began evacuating early Monday, with the first bus carrying about 50 Sudanese leaving the Jungle at about 08:45 am (0645 GMT).