French police begin clearing Calais migrant camp as French Immigration Minister Eric Besson says he wants to stop people trafficking there.
CALAIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 22, 2009) REUTERS - French police on Tuesday (September 22) began clearing an improvised camp dubbed "the jungle" where migrants gather near the port of Calais before trying to cross to Britain.
The operation, announced last week, has been heavily criticised by humanitarian groups who say it will do nothing to solve the problem of illegal immigration, but Immigration Minister Eric Besson defended the move.
"I want to dismantle this camp which is a base for people traffickers," he told RTL radio shortly after the operation began.
Besson said people traffickers exploited migrants, charging them 15,000 euros to get to Britain.
"I've seen a number of people describe it as a pleasant humanitarian camp. It is not a humanitarian camp. It is the base camp of the people traffickers," Besson said.
The French minister said the state of law needed to be established in the camp, to the benefit of the migrants themselves who are exploited, but also to the benefit of the inhabitants of Calais and its surrounding area.
He said around 250 people had been in the area on Monday but he was unaware of how many were still there as police moved in.
The makeshift tent city grew up after France closed a large Red Cross centre at nearby Sangatte in 2002 under pressure from Britain, which saw it as a magnet for clandestine immigrants.
Humanitarian groups say the high-profile closure of the "jungle" will merely move the illegal immigrants elsewhere in the area.