French authorities began evicting thousands of migrants from the sprawling migrant camp known as “the Jungle” in the northern French town of Calais Monday. The makeshift camp, which many refugees have called home for months, became widely known as a symbol for Europe’s growing refugee crisis due to its deplorable conditions.
READ MORE: France begins operation to move 6,000 migrants from Calais camp
By midday Monday, more than 700 migrants had left the shanty town, headed for reception centres across France where they have been promised the chance to apply for asylum. Soon, bulldozers will move in to level the town, as its residents are dispersed to new migrant housing. Here is what you need to know about the dismantling of the Calais Jungle and the planned demolition of the camp:
Who was living in the Calais camp?
Authorities say the Jungle holds nearly 6,500 migrants; however, aid groups estimate that more than 8,300 people live in the camp.
The camp has become known for squalid conditions, prompting French President Francois Hollande to call the Jungle a “humanitarian emergency.” Many residents have complained of inadequate food and water and filthy toilets shared by hundreds. Fourteen migrants have died this year in the Calais area. Reports have described the camp as “diabolical” and “obscene.”
Many of the migrants are from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea and had wanted to reach Britain, which is connected to France by a rail tunnel and visible from Calais on a clear day. Some had wished to join up with relatives already there and most had planned to seek work, believing that jobs are more plentiful than in France.
Britain, however, bars most of them on the basis of European Union rules requiring them to seek asylum in the first EU states they set foot in.
Where is France moving the displaced refugees?
France’s government plans to relocate refugees living in the Calais camp to 450 centres across France, where they have been promised the chance to apply for asylum. Hotels and even castles are among the hundreds of centres officials have been converting to migrant housing.
READ MORE: Refugees clash with police in bloody protest against Calais camp demolition
The hundreds who volunteered to move immediately were each given two destinations to choose from before being bussed to the reception centres. There they will receive medical checks and if they have not already done so, decide whether to apply for asylum.
Officials expect 60 buses to leave the camp on Monday and the government predicts the evacuation will take at least a week.
WATCH: Video shows clashes outside France’s Calais migrant camp
What will happen to the camp’s unaccompanied children?
Even as the dismantling process began, the fate of about 1,300 unaccompanied child migrants remained uncertain.
Last week, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged Britain to step up efforts to identify and resettle child migrants. London has given priority to children with family ties and discussions are underway with Paris over who should take in minors with no connections. Britain’s Home Office has reluctantly agreed to suspend the transfer of more children, on the request of the French authorities.
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For now, children will be moved to converted shipping containers at a site on the edge of the Jungle before they are interviewed by French and British immigration officials, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency in Geneva said.
Do residents want to leave?
On Monday, aid workers went from tent to tent, urging migrants to leave the camp before heavy machinery is rolled in to start the demolition.
Though hundreds have already left the Jungle, charity workers expect hundreds will try to stay and cautioned that the mood could change later in the week when work begins on razing the camp.
“There’s a risk that tensions increase in the week because at some point the bulldozers are going to have to come in,” said Fabrice Durieux from the charity Salam.
Others warned that many migrants who remained determined to reach Britain would simply scatter into the surrounding countryside, only to regroup in Calais at a later date.
“Each time they dismantle part of the camp it’s the same thing. You’re going to see them go into hiding and then come back. The battles will continue,” said Christian Salome, president of non-profit group Auberge des Migrants.
WATCH: A day in the life of Europe’s migrant crisis as it nears England
— With files from Global News’ Nicole Bogart and The Associated Press
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