FRENCH police have smashed up a large refugee camp on its northern coast where increasing numbers of people hoping to reach the UK had settled.
French police officers pulled down tents and forced 1,500 people off the site near Dunkirk, loading them onto coaches early yesterday morning and arresting 13, accusing them of ‘people smuggling’.
France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that the camp in the Dunkirk suburb of Grande-Synthe was being evacuated on his instruction and that the arrests meant France has detained 1,308 suspected people smugglers since January.
Videos posted on social media showed scores of police vans at the camp, and people being forced onto coaches.
BFM TV said the numbers in the camp had more than tripled in two months, from 400 in early September to about 1,500 recently.
A French government spokesman said the camp had been dismantled in order to ‘shelter’ the people, ‘especially as winter approaches’.
But asylum seeker support organisation, Utopia56, said the evacuation would only ‘lead to a dispersal and silencing of people, without any real accompanying solution’.
The Tory UK government is bringing in new immigration laws making it harder for anyone arriving by boat to claim asylum successfully.
Humanitarian groups have criticised the Tory plan, saying they will unfairly punish refugees from the poorest parts of the world.
Darmanin held talks with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel on Monday evening.
Hours before the meeting, Darmanin had given a highly critical assessment of British attacks on France, accusing the UK of ‘using us as a punch-ball in their domestic politics’.
Yesterday, one of Darmanin’s aides claimed there had been no link between Monday’s conversation with Patel and yesterday’s clearing of the camp in Grande-Synthe – the clearance had been ‘scheduled for this date’ prior to the phone call, he claimed.
Also yesterday, Polish forces used tear gas and water cannon against hundreds of migrants trying to cross into the country from Belarus.
Videos showed migrants throwing stones and other objects at the Polish forces guarding a fortified border crossing.
In recent days, thousands have converged on a crossing at Kuznica, south of Grodno in north-west Belarus.
On Monday, many burst through a fence and gathered at a crossing on the Belarusian side of the border. They were blocked by Polish troops and a tense stand-off ensued.
Russia condemned Poland’s use of tear gas and water cannons against the migrants, calling it ‘absolutely unacceptable’.