PARIS – The charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) will on Monday open a refugee camp in northern France without the blessing of the French government.
The camp in Grande Synthe is meant to take in migrants who are currently occupying a shanty near the town that is second in size to the “Jungle,” the notorious makeshift camp in Calais, about half an hour’s drive to the west, which is being demolished.
MSF said it is the first camp conforming to international norms to open in France since the start of the migrant crisis early last year.
The charity will run the camp jointly with the Grande Synthe town hall, but without the blessing of Paris.
Officially, around 1,000 migrants live in the shantytown, including 60 women and 74 children, with the transfer to the new camp expected to take three days.
MSF’s decision to build a proper camp was prompted early last month when heavy winds damaged two-thirds of the some 200 tents at Grande-Synthe.
The charity has so far built a little over 200 cabins of 275 planned “in the short term” to house at least 1,500 people, said the coordinator, Angelique Muller.
Enough showers and toilets are being provided to eventually handle 2,500 people, she said.
Jean-Francois Cordet, a local government administrator, said in mid-February: “The government’s policy is not to reconstitute a camp at Grande-Synthe, but to make it go away.
The government has been urging residents of both the Jungle and Grande-Synthe to seek housing at one of some 200 centers across France and to submit asylum applications.
Thousands of migrants who have fled poverty or conflict in North Africa and the Middle East instead have their hearts set on reaching England.
Authorities last week began gradually demolishing the Jungle.