Massive fires have been raging overnight through the refugee camp in the French port city of Calais that has been at the center of much controversy recently. This as authorities have been trying to evacuate thousands of refugees to other reception centers across the nation.
It is not exactly known who started the fires, with initial reports pointing the finger of blame at refugees opposed to the destruction of the camp.
But French authorities said later that they were investigating claims that ‘No Borders’ activists were indeed responsible for the arson attacks. The British group campaigns against borders and immigration controls.
The French government finally decided to completely demolish the infamous shantytown after a few earlier attempts to partially dismantle it. The operation got underway on Tuesday amid much opposition from the camp’s residents.
Fires billowing black columns of smoke into the air left some of the protesting refugees with major injuries, while others were treated for smoke inhalation at the scene.
According to local officials emergency services workers were attacked with stones and other projectiles as they tried to put out the flames, and that riot police had to intervene to deal with the chaos.
Residents told officials that activists had come into the settlement in the middle of the night and set off canisters, hence starting the fires.
Demolition workers on Tuesday started tearing down the tents where up to 8,000 refugees, including 1,200 children, mainly from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea, have been living in dire conditions.
Last month, President Francois Hollande pledged to definitely and entirely raze the camp after a visit to Calais.
More than 1,200 police and officials have already been deployed in the northern port city in what Paris calls a “humanitarian” operation. But a large number of refugees are said to be resisting evacuation.