Following weeks of planning, the operation finally began this morning before daybreak: It was time to dismantle the infamous Calais "Jungle." Again. The Jungle is home to an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 migrants, most of them are young men from Africa and the Middle East, living in squalid conditions who wish to cross the Channel to the UK. Buses started to leave Calais this morning, transporting the migrants to refugee centers scattered across France. Britain, meanwhile, has agreed to take in part of the 1,300 unaccompanied minors from the camp.
But many are already suggesting that the move, which required some 1,250 French police, will do little to solve a situation that often seems Sisyphean. Opponents in France say the move is too little, too late, and have denounced the distribution of the migrants across the country, which in various cases has been the subject of protests in towns and villages.
This isn't the first time the Jungle has been dismantled. Another attempt happened earlier this year, but the very first operation of this kind took place back in 2002. Though Europe's migration crisis has made for major worldwide headlines the past two years, the issue is hardly new. And Clare Moseley, the British founder of Care4Calais, says it won't be different this time around: "I think people will still come. With refugees, deterrents don't matter because a refugee by definition is fleeing something," The Guardian quoted her as saying. "In February, they demolished over half of the camp and yet here we are seven months later, with a camp bigger than it's ever been."
Whether it is permanently eliminated or rises again, Calais is no doubt destined to be a symbol of the desperation and intractability of these mass movements of people. The same could be said for another emblematic location, the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa. According to La Stampa, Italian coast guard boats rescued 4,292 migrants who were trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa, in various operations over the past day. Eighteen people died.
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