Migrants returning to Calais refugee camp as fires recede

Four migrants have been arrested in connection with a number of fires which broke out this afternoon

Migrants returning to Calais refugee camp as fires recede

People walk past as thick smoke and flames rise from amidst the tents after fires were started in the makeshift migrant camp known as "The Jungle" near Calais, northern France | Image: Emilio Morenatti AP/Press Association Images

People have started moving back into a refugee camp in Calais just hours after French authorities announced they had finished clearing the area.

Thousands of migrants were evacuated from the camp known as "The Jungle" as multiple large blazes raged across the sprawling camp in northern France this afternoon.

Calais regional prefect Fabienne Buccio had said operations to clear the camp - which began on Monday - had been completed days earlier than planned.

“It is truly today the end of ‘The Jungle,’” she said.

“[It is] an important, powerful moment. A lot has happened, an incredible human experience has taken place within this camp with all its different communities.”

She told the Associated Press news agency that there are now no longer any migrants in the camp saying “our mission has been fulfilled.”

Authorities, however, told some migrants they could go back into the camp after the fires were put out to recover what was left of their belongings.

"Jungle's not dead! Jungle's not dead!" said a young Afghan migrant making his way back into the camp.

Authorities said they would stop processing people by the end of the day.

By early afternoon firefighters and volunteers had largely brought the fires under control, which burned for hours and left skeleton-like hulks on either side of the main alley through the camp.

Dozens of large blazes were ripping through what had been until recently the homes of thousands of migrants and refugees at the sprawling French camp.

The sound of exploding gas canisters could be heard as firefighters tried to tackle the flames.

A plume of black smoke billowed over the camp as firefighters battled the flames in shelters, tents and small shops.

 

Four migrants have been arrested in connection with starting the blazes, said Calais police commissioner Patrick Visser-Bourdon, who is in charge of the dismantling operation.

Earlier, regional Prefect Fabienne Buccio said migrants "have a tradition" of burning their shelters before leaving.

As volunteers helped the French firefighters tackle the blaze, several children remained at the camp.

Mr Visser-Bourdon said that all minors with links to the UK have been transferred from the camp - but charities helping coordinate the extraction maintain this is not true.

He also said the demolition of the camp would take place within a week once everyone is out.

After two full days of the operation, French authorities have transported about 4,000 migrants to reception centres around the country.

Earlier in the day, a queue of mostly male adults formed in the morning fog outside a processing centre.

Authorities said some 6,300 people fleeing war and poverty outside Europe were housed at Calais, the main port of entry to Britain from France. But aid groups counted more than 8,000 people.