France will begin dismantling the “Jungle” migrant camp in the port of Calais on Monday morning, officials say.
Authorities say some 7,000 people live in the camp in squalid conditions. They will be offered placements in refugee centres across the country.
Several of the children there are expected to be relocated to the UK.
The Jungle has become a powerful symbol of Europe’s failure to cope with the migrant crisis.
Many of the migrants attempt to reach the UK by boarding lorries as they approach ports or the Channel Tunnel.
Minors will be taken to the camp’s converted shipping containers during the dismantling of the rest of the Jungle, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The migrants who currently live in the containers – which were being used as temporary accommodation instead of makeshift tents – will be evacuated to make room for the minors.
There are 7,500 beds available in centres across France for the Calais migrants. Some 60 buses will be used to remove them from the camp.
Officials say they are worried about crowds rushing to leave the camp during the first stage of the operation. From Tuesday, heavy machinery will be sent to clear the tents and shelters that have been left behind.
The Interior Ministry said that police forces “might be forced to intervene” if faced with resistance.
What is the ‘Jungle’?
- The “Jungle” camp is near the port of Calais, and close to the 31-mile Channel Tunnel
- Officially, about 7,000 migrants live in the camp – humanitarian groups say the number is closer to 10,000
- Despite an increasing population, the camp’s size was halved earlier this year
- But the camp’s population has continued to rise, and reports of violence have increased
- Many migrants attempt to hide themselves in cargo vehicles entering the Channel Tunnel
- The area has been hit by protests from both locals and truck operators
Several children from the camp are expected to be relocated to the UK.
French Interior Ministry Bernard Cazeneuve had held talks on this issue with the UK’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the statement added. Discussions, it said, “were sometimes difficult as they can be between close partners”.
The Jungle has played host to scenes of both squalor and of violence, as migrants, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, attempt to board lorries bound for the UK, clashing with drivers and police in the process.
A UK-funded wall 1km (0.6 miles) long is being built along the main road to the port in an attempt to deter would-be stowaways. The UK government has not confirmed the cost, but it is reported to have contributed about £1.9m (€2.2m).
Work on the wall, which began last week, is due to be finished by the end of the year.
Calais migrants: ‘Jungle’ closure to start on Monday, France says