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  1. ITV Report

Why is the Calais 'Jungle' camp being demolished?

Concerns have been raised for the fate of young refugees as the Calais migrant camp is finally cleared. Credit: Reuters

The long-standing "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais that has become a demoralising symbol of Europe's migrant crisis is finally being dismantled.

Find out why the French camp is being cleared now, where the refugees are being taken and how many unaccompanied children could be heading to the UK.

Why is the camp being cleared now?

Earlier this year French president Francois Hollande announced plans to close the Jungle camp by the end of 2016 and relocate the officially estimated 6,500 refugees who have made Calais their temporary home.

Hollande is facing political pressure ahead of next year's presidential election so has acted to take stronger measures over a site that has become a vote-threatening symbol of his government's failure to tackle the migrant crisis.

An emergency legal bid by several aid groups to delay the camp's closure was rejected by a court in Lille earlier this month, paving the way for today's clearance to begin.

France has vowed to clear the makeshift homes by the end of 2016. Credit: Reuters

Hasn't the Jungle camp been cleared before?

Yes. The slum's southern section was dismantled earlier this year but more migrants from countries including Sudan, Syria and Eritrea, many of whom have fled poverty, persecution and war in their home countries, arrived seeking asylum to the UK.

Despite the camp's size halving, the population swelled. Humanitarian groups believe the full population could be close to 10,000.

Where are the refugees being taken?

The Jungle closure plan will see migrants being held at one of more than 160 Welcome and Orientation Centres (CAOs) in regions across France for up to four months while authorities investigate their cases.

The refugees and migrants will be sorted into groups of families, minors, vulnerable or ill people and others travelling alone during registration at a warehouse next to the camp and given coloured wristbands depending on which region they say they would like to be sent to.

They will have to claim asylum in France within a set period of time or face deportation.

Some 60 government-organised buses were taking thousands of the camp's residents in a first wave with a further 85 buses expected to arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday as the mass eviction continues. Authorities hope 4,000 people will have been moved within 48 hours.

Around 4,000 refugees are expected to be transferred around France by Wednesday. Credit: Reuters

What's going to happen to those under 18 who don't have family?

Unaccompanied minors - a group estimated to be around 1,000 - are believed to be the only group staying in Calais, where they will be taken to containers within a secure area of the camp, amid fears for the safety of children in the aftermath of the demolition.

Commons Home Affairs Committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper has warned children left alone in the camp with family in the UK were at risk of falling into the hands of people traffickers.

How many are coming to the UK?

France has called on the UK to allow 500 unaccompanied minors who claim to have family already living in Britain.

The arrival of many lone migrant children has stretched services in Britain, with Kent County Council reporting demand for foster carers reaching crisis point partly because of the new arrivals.

Refugees began queuing to begin the transfer process to more than 160 reception centres across France. Credit: Reuters

Why do refugees centre on Calais rather than other coastal towns?

Calais has lived with migrants for years due to its proximity both to the town's ferry port and the 31-mile Channel Tunnel. The Sangatte refugee camp, a few miles south of the Jungle, became home to thousands of migrants from 1999 until it was shut in 2002 but the French coastal town and nearby Dunkirk remained a magnate for the displaced over the course of the next decade when the expanding 'Jungle' of settlements was established.

What measures are being taken to ensure it doesn't return?

French authorities have been called on to supply a larger police force to prevent squats returning.

Nonetheless, charity workers based at the camp have predicted the Jungle will likely re-emerge with refugees still making perilous journeys to the northern French port city in spite of the camp's dismantlement.

Work is also continuing on a UK-funded £1.9 million wall in Calais to prevent refugees from boarding UK-bound lorries heading to the ports.

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