Stay of eviction for Calais refugees

'The jungle' Reuters
'The jungle' Reuters

Thousands of migrants living in the Calais refugee camp, known as the Jungle, have been given a stay of eviction.

A deadline for forcible eviction has been delayed after its legality was questioned, but only for a couple of days at the most.

A heavy police presence is the norm at Calais's migrant camp, but today is different; this is eviction day, or at least it was meant to be

The French authorities had laid down the law, saying migrants must go. But forcing people out in the middle of winter with nowhere to go is legally questionable.

A challenge by Calais migrants and charities was met by a visit from a judge, and the decision to evict has now been delayed by one or two days.

People here know what it means to be moved on by machine, the razed land surrounding the camp has been overturned by bulldozers.

The evicted moved to the south side of the camp, which is where most of the infrastructure is now, but It is also the area touted for destruction.

Authorities put the number of migrants on the south side at about 1000, but volunteers say it's far more.

A census was carried out by charity volunteers who visited every shack to find out how many people are living there, how old and how many are with family or unaccompanied. All of them were marked and numbered.

They recorded more than 400 children here of which 315 are without family.

Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais, says it's heart-breaking to see what these people are going through.

"If those children --10 of them disappear -- nobody would know. If something happens to them there is nobody to protect them. If they're being abused there is nobody to watch out for that -- or to stop them."

Volunteers say at least the jungle inside offers a degree of protection.