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Truckers block Calais to demand closure of migrant camp

05 September 2016, 19:39

Calais - Truckers, dockworkers, farmers and merchants are blocking a major highway in northern France to demand the closure of the Calais migrant camp known as the "jungle," as its population surges and tensions rise.

Local authorities are urging travellers to avoid the area in hopes of limiting disruption from the Monday morning blockade, aimed at paralysing traffic on the route used to access the Eurotunnel and port.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced on Friday that the government would dismantle the camp "in a controlled operation" as soon as possible, but protesters want him to set a date.

The camp, currently home to at least 7 000 migrants from the Middle East and Africa trying to reach Britain, has epitomised the challenges of Europe's migrant crisis. Authorities have tightened security and closed half of the camp, but the migrant population has reached record highs.

Truckers are frustrated by migrants' attempts to hop into their vehicles to slip across the English Channel, and local businesses say the migrants have become an economic drain on the city. They are blocking the A16 highway, which is used by European transporters to reach Britain via Calais.

The local administration issued a statement on Sunday urging people to avoid non-essential travel to the Calais area throughout the day.

Aid groups warn that a hasty shutdown of the camp would scatter the migrants, aggravate the city's troubles and worsen the humanitarian drama. While the camp conditions are dismal, migrants have access to food distribution, showers and makeshift shops.

The government says about 7 000 migrants are living there, while aid groups estimate that there are more than 9 000.

- AP


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