CALAIS: French police used tear gas and water cannon to put down violent clashes with migrants and activists who attempted to hold a banned rally beside the squalid “Jungle” camp in Calais on Saturday, regional authorities said.
The confrontation, the worst since February, lasted some three hours and three police officers were slightly injured from stones hurled by some of the migrants, the authorities in the northern French town said.
But police union official Gilles Debove reported 10 officers hurt, including one who was hospitalised, and seven police vehicles damaged.
An AFP photographer said he was also slightly injured from the stone-throwing.
Tensions mounted in the Jungle, set to be closed by winter, after a demonstration planned Saturday by a group working with migrants was banned by local authorities.
Then on Saturday afternoon, “200 people, mainly from the No Borders group and migrants gathered in front of the CRS (riot police)” on the outskirts of the camp, said Etienne Desplanques, an official of the Pas-de-Calais region.
Since the gathering was banned, police sought to push the protesters back inside the camp, he said.
The masked migrants and activists, many of them British, began throwing stones and other objects at police.
Riot police responded firing 700 tear gas grenades, Debove said, also using a water cannon to disperse the protesters.
Some 200 additional police were sent to the area, officials said, and the situation had calmed down by early evening.
Saturday’s clashes were the worst since February 29 when operations began to dismantle the southern part of the “Jungle” camo, leaving five people injured.
Between 7,000 and 10,000 migrants are currently living in the migrant camp, a launch-pad for people’s desperate attempts to stow away on lorries heading across the Channel to England.
French President Francois Hollande on Monday said the sprawling migrant camp in Calais would be totally dismantled by the end of this year under a plan to spread asylum seekers around the country.