The clearance operation at the sports hall, located in Dunkirk’s Grande-Synthe suburb, began on September 10, less than a week after a court in the regional city of Lille ordered the gymnasium to be cleared and shut, AFP reported on Tuesday, Presstv Reported.
The court said at the time that the expulsion order was made following complaints it had received from local authorities and residents about violence, garbage, and the presence of people-smugglers among the refugees.
Back in December last year, the mayor of Grande-Synthe had opened up the gymnasium to the refugees’ families seeking shelter from the cold.
Since then, the sports hall had turned into a makeshift camp, home to some 170 people, mostly Iraqi Kurds striving to reach Britain. Some 800 people lived in tents around the crammed gymnasium.
In 2016, French authorities razed to the ground a squat — nicknamed the “Jungle” — in the vicinity of the port of Calais. It was home to 10,000 refugees at its height. Since then, French authorities have adopted a policy of trying to prevent refugees forming similar camps.
However, rights groups have lambasted police tactics in displacing refugees. Back in December last year, France’s human rights ombudsman, Jacques Toubon, condemned the “extreme destitution” suffered by people camping out or sleeping under bridges in the area.
At the time, he accused the country’s authorities of “trying to make (migrants) invisible” by regularly demolishing their camps without providing them with viable alternatives.
The situation in France is part of a wider refugee crisis across Europe, which has been struggling with its biggest influx of asylum seekers since World War II, as people flee conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East.