Leader comment: Clearing the Jungle will not solve the crisis

A migrant makes his way through a police cordon in the makeshift migrant camp known as "the jungle" near Calais,  as French authorities begin to shut it down. Picture: AP Photo/Thibault Camus
A migrant makes his way through a police cordon in the makeshift migrant camp known as "the jungle" near Calais, as French authorities begin to shut it down. Picture: AP Photo/Thibault Camus
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The camp outside Calais known as the Jungle was a squalid place, where thousands of people were crammed into makeshift accommodation including tents and converted shipping containers. Recently violence had been on the increase and people had endured the hardships for months.

The reason people congregated there was to get to the UK and that often meant risking their lives to get on board a truck – sometimes while it was still moving. And then if the individual made it to Britain they were in a foreign country, often without family or friends and with very little money.

So imagine how committed these people are, to put themselves through all of that simply to get to a country they believe might offer a better future. That is how badly they want to come to the UK, and if, once they get there, stories of streets paved with gold in the form of benefits turn out not to be true, well, they are here and getting back to where they came from, even if desired, will not be easy.

So now the Jungle is being cleared and the 7,000 inhabitants are being distributed in buses to 450 centres across France; former police stations, hospitals and even out-of-season holiday parks.

But that process is not without difficulties. Some of the residents in sleepy rural France are not happy at the thought of hundreds of migrants suddenly appearing in their midst.

That unhappiness is already providing ammunition for far-right political parties and the political ramifications are bound to escalate with the French presidential elections early next year.

The official clearing of problem immigrant camps is not without precedent and it did not end well last time.

From 1999 to 2002, on the other side of Calais, a centre planned to house a few hundred migrants at Sangatte was actually holding 1,500 people and it was acting as a magnet to others who were seeking to find some way to cross the Channel. It was cleared, with the UK agreeing to take many in, but it did not take long for the makeshift camps to set up again, and eventually they sprawled to become the Jungle.

The problem is one of geography, and that is unlikely to change. The lorries that are capable of providing transport for desperate people will always get funnelled in to ports close to the English Channel and therefore there is always somewhere that will be visible that will attract people who are very motivated to get to Britain.

The building of a wall along the main road at Calais in a bid to prevent immigrants from targeting lorries, which will be completed next year, will of course have little effect.

For the clearing of the Jungle to work, the French authorities will have to ensure that the centres are decent places to live and that the decision process does not take too long. But the real hard work will have to be done near the French ports where there will have to be eternal vigilance to spot anything that might grow in to a camp, because there will still be people seeking out those lorries.