Police in the northern French city of Calais clashed with migrants Thursday morning as the officers stood at the ready, securing an area that is often an exit point for asylum seekers fleeing through the Channel Tunnel to the UK
Fifteen of the officers were hospitalized after the fight, according to French news outlet France Bleu.
While one encampment was peacefully cleared near Calais Regional Hospital earlier in the morning, 60 gendarmes and officers of the CRS — France’s special mobile French police force — found themselves attacked by a group of 100 migrants while they stood guard in the Turquerie Zone, a locale where migrants try to gain passage to the UK by jumping into trucks making the journey.
One bystander described the hour-long brawl as one of “incredible violence” and even “a scene of war” with many of the migrants hurling bags of stones and other heavy material at the officers. Police responded with fire from defense bullets and tear gas.
Some migrants were injured in the fighting, while a number of officers suffered wounds and one officer a broken leg, according to France Bleu.
The morning raid at the camp near the hospital included the seizure of 30 makeshift shelters, with police refusing to allow the migrants to gather their belongings. The moves are further attempts by the city and the government at controlling the migrant population.
Calais has been a hotspot for migrants from war- and conflict-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa to seek safe passage to the UK, with the situation growing increasingly unstable over the past three decades.
In mid-November, protesters marched in support of asylum seekers both in Calais and in the southeastern commune of Briancon, where migrants pass over the border from Italy into France seeking asylum or to venture further north.
The Pas-de-Calais prefecture issued a press release Thursday saying “these operations aim to put an end to the illegal occupations in Calais and have the objectives of avoiding the reconstitution of a large unhealthy encampment and of removing migrants from the mafia networks of smugglers.”
The statement said the prefecture also “strongly condemns this violence and gives its full support to the injured police and gendarmes.”
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