Cops dismantle Dunkirk camp with 1,200 migrants who want to reach UK

French riot police armed with tear gas and batons dismantle Dunkirk camp holding 1,200 migrants who want to cross the Channel to UK before Brexit

  • More than 200 gendarmes marched in on government orders to close camp 
  • Residents of the migrant centre are almost exclusively Kurds from northern Iraq  
  • They are being sent across France and encouraged to apply for asylum 

Squadrons of French riot police descended on a sprawling migrant centre near Dunkirk this morning to dismantle the camp that has become a launch-pad for illegal boat crossings to Britain.

Armed with tear gas and heavy batons squadrons of the heavily-armed officers began clearing the 1,200-capacity encampment at Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk before dawn today.

The first migrants – a small group of young children – were escorted out of the camp shortly before 8am local time.

Squadrons of French riot police descended on to a sprawling migrant centre near Dunkirk this morning to dismantle the 1,200 camp

French gendarmes stand by tents during the evacuation of the large Grand Synthe migrant camp

The officers arrived armed with tear gas and batons at the Grande-Synthe camp near Dunkirk before dawn today

A Councillor in France has said a ‘perfect storm’ of the Dunkirk camp closing, the threat of a freezing winter and Brexit has meant that migrants are more desperate than ever to reach the UK for the October 31 deadline

A group of small children were first to be escorted from the camp to be dispersed around France

There were 1,200 people – mostly Kurds from Iraq – living in the camp before it was torn down today

People living at Grande-Synthe have previously told how they want to reach Britain more than ever as the French authorities make them homeless by closing their camp

More than 200 police officers from various forces have been drafted in to take part in the operation. Today they were seen standing around as they began the clearance first phase

Immigration officials from France’s Interior Ministry were accompanied into the centre as part of the operation.

More than 200 police officers from the various different forces – CRS riot police, Gendarmerie Nationale, Police Nationale and Police Municipale – have been drafted in to take part in the operation. 

Groups of migrants – mostly young men, Kurds from northern Iraq – began boarding buses to leave the camp shortly after 8.15am local time.

Government officials disperse the camp residents across the whole of France – often hundreds of miles from the English Channel. 

‘They began evacuating men, woman and children, and then destroying tents and bivouacs,’ said a local charity worker.

‘Many were forced on to buses, which will take them to other parts of France for processing. Many will come straight back to Dunkirk again.’ 

Drivers of the coaches which take migrants away are only told their destination at the last moment

Today’s evacuation was ordered by Martial Beyaert, the mayor of Grande-Synthe, and her staff had placed warnings about the ‘imminent evacuation’ around the camp, which had extended into nearby woods and fields

Migrants prepare to pack up this morning before riot police arrived to take the camp apart

More than 200 police officers from the various different forces – CRS riot police, Gendarmerie Nationale, Police Nationale and Police Municipale – were drafted in to take part

Government officials disperse the camp residents across the whole of France – often hundreds of miles from the English Channel. A family is pictured being removed from the camp 

‘They began evacuating men, woman and children, and then destroying tents and bivouacs,’ said a local charity worker

Migrants have told MailOnline how they will obey police instructions to vacate the camp but will return to the coast within days

Drivers of the coaches are only told their destination at the last moment. Then they will be displaced to refugee reception centres across France where they will be encouraged to apply for asylum in France.

But migrants have told MailOnline how they will obey police instructions to vacate the camp but will return to the coast within days.

The vast majority refuse to give up their dreams of starting a new life in Britain and will return to the north coast to make fresh attempts to cross the Channel – in the back of a lorry, underneath a Eurostar train or braving the winter weather in a rubber boat. 

‘Today we go with the police but we will be back in three days,’ said Mohammed from Erbil, Iraq.

‘I am here with my wife and daughter so we will not resist. But we will not stop trying to get to England.’

Many migrants that MailOnline spoke to said that they want to get to the UK soon now that their camp has been closed down

A spokesman for L’Auberge des Migrants (Migrant Shelter) said: ‘Very few of these very vulnerable people want to claim asylum in France, and so they will continue their journeys to Britain’

Many migrants are prepared to risk their lives for the chance of a better existence in England and refuse to stop trying

One migrant, a married father of two children, told MailOnline only death would make him stop trying to reach Britain.

‘You can only die once,’ Saman Ali, said as he sat on a make-shift bench around a wood fire. ‘I know it is dangerous to try to cross the sea to England but we will not stop trying.

Officers from the various different forces – CRS riot police, Gendarmerie Nationale, Police Nationale and Police Municipale – have been drafted in to take part in the operation

‘I want to give my family, my children a better life and I will do this, or I will die trying.’ 

A spokesman for L’Auberge des Migrants (Migrant Shelter) said: ‘Very few of these very vulnerable people want to claim asylum in France, and so they will continue their journeys to Britain.

‘There were about a thousand people in the camp. Smashing up the modest temporary homes they have found will just make them even more desperate, and so they will take even more risks with urgent trips across the Channel.’  

Mr Ali, one of dozens of parents with young children at the sprawling camp at Grande-Synthe, fled Iraq after ISIS overran their village.

He lived with his family in Turkey for several years before embarking on their epic trip to Britain. And he vowed never to stop trying.

People traffickers are believed to have infiltrated the camp at Grande-Synthe demanding thousands of pounds to organise illegal crossings to Britain.

One man, known as ‘the boss’, is rumoured to be charge of the growing number of boat crossings.

He orders passengers to take taxis to remote spots along the coast in the middle of the night. The migrants, who often include small children, must then walk several miles where an inflatable rub is ready and waiting.

Setting off in pitch darkness the passengers are ordered to navigate by the moon and use their mobile phones to call for help if they get into distress.

Groups of migrants – mostly young men, Kurds from northern Iraq – began boarding buses to leave the camp shortly after 8.15am local time

People traffickers are believed to have infiltrated the camp at Grande-Synthe demanding thousands of pounds to organise illegal crossings to Britain

The male sleeping area inside the Espace Jeunes du Moulin refuge centre in Grande Synthe, Dunkirk before the eviction began this morning

Those people living in the female and family area inside the Espace Jeunes du Moulin refuge centre in Grande Synthe all had to pack their belongings today as they were moved on

Migrant welfare groups have condemned the camp eviction claiming it would not stop people trying to reach Britain but would simply make their conditions worse.

Claire Moseley, of Care4Calais, said: ‘The migrants will be taken to reception centre away from the coast. They will be encourage to apply for asylum in France but most won’t. The vast majority will be back at the coast within days. But they will be living in terrible conditions.’

Claire Millot, of charity Salam, added: ‘Closing the camp does nothing to stop migrants trying to reach England. It only makes people live in terrible conditions and without dignity. It is unnecessary.’ 

Today’s evacuation was ordered by Martial Beyaert, the mayor of Grande-Synthe, and her staff had placed warnings about the ‘imminent evacuation’ around the camp, which had extended into nearby woods and fields.

Most residents were Iraqi Kurds fleeing there homeland, according to local charities who have been providing tents, food, and medical faciliites since January.

It was in 2016 that the so-called ‘Jungle’ camp was destroyed by French riot police on the orders of the government.

It had housed up to 8000 migrants at a time, most of them seeking to start new lives in the UK.

Now any attempt to build a camp on the northern coast is invariably met by police, who raze it to the ground. 

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