Riot police came under attack in the Jungle camp in Calais last night as Muslim migrants lit fires and threw stones.
On the eve of the long-awaited operation to tear down the squalid camp, defiant migrants said they were staying put and would continue trying to get to Britain.
And as their protests turned violent, French police issued an extraordinary statement saying anarchists from a UK-based group have infiltrated the camp and are planning to disrupt the operation.
More than one thousand migrants began queuing before dawn to be transferred from the camp this morning on the first day of the operation to clear the sprawling shanty town.
Wrapped up against the cold and with their meagre possessions packed in suitcases and rucksacks they waited patiently for the gates of the government processing center to open.
But thousands of migrants in the Jungle are expected to defy efforts to bus them away from Calais to reception centres around France as the demolition of the camp begins today.
French police last night admitted there was a ‘high risk’ of violent opposition from UK-based anti-capitalist group No Borders against the move to clear the Jungle.
In a statement, they said an exclusion zone had been created in the camp because of fears ‘hard-Left activists’ were planning attacks.
It was also reported last night that members of No Borders were seen walking around with walkie-talkies co-ordinating the violence.
This morning, crowds of migrants waited in line to be processed at a registration camp. A group of several dozen migrant ‘children’ tried to jump the queue to be processed.
The gang of mostly Afghan youths formed a line next to gates of the warehouse being used as a processing center.
The youngsters – some with moustaches and stubble – pushed through the crowd, claiming they were ‘bambino’, the jungle slang for unaccompanied minors.
One shouted: ‘We are bambino let us go to England.’
However French riot police refused to let them go first and ordered all migrants to join the same queue.
Many former Jungle residents – mainly African migrants from Sudan – were resigned that their chance to reach the UK in the back of a truck or hidden on a train was over.
Some 60 coaches will be laid on today to transport 3,000 migrants living in the Jungle to reception centers around France. The aim is to empty and destroy the camp by the end of the week.
Yesterday, 10,000 leaflets were handed out to migrants explaining the imminent demolition.
But migrants are putting on a united front in the face of the camp’s planned destruction. Last night tensions escalated and there were clashes between refugees and more than 1,000 deployed police.
Many migrants say they intend to ignore the French authorities and stay around Calais so they can continue with their plans to reach Britain.
Despite an unprecedented information campaign by French immigration officials and welfare charities many migrants remain unaware of their future.
Shermuhammed Dawlatzai, 32, also from Afghanistan, said he would refuse any offer of asylum in France, adding: ‘I have been in the Jungle for nine months and I only want to go to UK. All my family is in the UK. I will have a good life there.’
Referring to the camp’s destruction, he said: ‘I will hide up a tree in Calais if I have to. I will see what they do tomorrow then decide. I don’t want to be in France.’
The migrants are being given the chance to claim asylum in France – but many are expected to reject the offer and instead hide out in abandoned houses, derelict factories and forests around Calais so they can continue their attempts to reach the UK.
Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart said she hoped the whole demolition of the camp would pass off ‘smoothly’, but said heavily-armed security were ready to deal with any trouble if required.
‘We have tried to plan for everything,’ she said. ‘This is a big operation, the removal of more than 6,000 people from the Jungle.
‘But I am confident that 90 per cent will make the right decision and accept a place at a reception centre in another part of France.
‘We will not allow another camp to spring up anywhere else in the Calais region.’
Authorities say 7,000 people are living in the camp, but aid workers put the figure closer to 10,000. They will this week go through a processing point in a warehouse near the Jungle before they are moved to accommodation centres across France.
When the south side of the Jungle was destroyed in February, there was widespread violence, with CRS riot police and gendarmes coming under sustained attack.
Fires were lit across the camp, while water cannon and tear gas was used to hold back mobs of activists and migrants.
Angry young Afghan men have already been seen smashing up the cafés, shops, and restaurants inside the Jungle.
Failure to leave the Jungle or to cooperate with the authorities will result in arrest and detention.
Migrants will be required to present themselves at a warehouse close to the Jungle where they can choose between two regions in France where they will be transferred.
On Monday, there will be 60 buses for 3,000 people, on Tuesday 45 buses, for 2,500 people, and on Wednesday 40 buses for 2,000 people. This will continue throughout the week.
Unaccompanied minors living in the Jungle will be processed separately and include interviews by British officials. Checks will be carried out to determine their ages.
There have been encampments full of migrants in Calais for at least 20 years, but the Jungle is by far the biggest.
As well as restaurants and shops, there are Christian and Muslim places of worship, but it has become notorious for violence and squalor.
A female interpreter working for a French TV channel was raped at knifepoint by three men close to the Jungle last week, and there are regular fights with the police.