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article imageMigrants clash with police as security stepped up at French camps

By AFP     Oct 29, 2015 in World

French police clashed with stone-throwing migrants near the northern French port of Calais on Thursday, leading the local mayor to call for their camp to be "immediately dismantled".

Police were trying to carry out security checks at the camp in Teteghem, near Calais, which they say is controlled by people smugglers.

Teteghem mayor Franck Dhersin described the camp as a "lawless zone".

"I am asking for the immediate dismantling of the camp, if necessary by force," he told AFP.

"The camp has always been in the hands of smugglers. It's a mafia that functions like a drug gang."

He said the smugglers that have been arrested in the region were only "small fish", and blamed the British government for failing to target their bosses whom he said were based in Britain.

Nearly 250 people currently live in the Teteghem camp -- mostly Syrians, but also Iraqis, Iranians and a small number of Vietnamese.

It is thought to house better-funded migrants, who can afford to pay thousands of euros to be smuggled in vehicles across the Channel to Britain.

Some 6,000 poorer migrants are gathered a few kilometres away at the "New Jungle" camp in Calais, hoping to find their own ways of sneaking into the Channel Tunnel or aboard ships.

Although the camp has excited huge interest in France and Britain, the numbers are tiny compared to other countries, notably Germany which is expected to receive up to a million people this year.

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve claimed Thursday that increased security measures introduced last week -- including more than 400 additional police -- were bearing fruit.

He said no migrants had crossed the Channel illegally since Sunday, and that daily attempts to break into the tunnel had fallen from 1,300 to 241.

There are now 1,125 officers stationed in the region.

"We are mobilising our forces to send a message to smugglers that no one goes through Calais anymore," said Cazeneuve.

Meanwhile, two aid agencies have requested emergency assistance for migrants in the "New Jungle", including improved water and sanitation services.

A court in the northern city of Lille will decide Monday on whether to allow the emergency measures requested by Doctors of the World and Caritas.

The Calais town hall has opposed the request, saying there is no emergency and that the state is already providing considerable assistance.

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