Camp housing 1500 migrants in north France destroyed in fire

Camp housing 1500 migrants in north France destroyed in fire

A powerful fire has torn through the Grande-Synthe migrant camp near the northern French city of Dunkirk, reducing it to "a heap of ashes".

"There is nothing left but a heap of ashes", said Michel Lalande, prefect of France's Nord region, at the site. At least ten people were injured, six with knife wounds.

"Already we are seeing migrants return to the Calais area - all with the same goal; to reach the United Kingdom by whatever means possible and that usually means on the back of a truck".

The fierce blaze destroyed most of the 300 huts in the camp and had still not been extinguished at 2:00 am Tuesday (0000 GMT).

A spokesperson for the prefect's office added: "Many of the cabins have burned down or are still on fire, more than half the camp has been destroyed".

The fire broke out later in the evening and tore through the wooden huts of the camp, which houses between 1,000 and 1,500 migrants, many of them Kurds, according to humanitarian groups.

Local association Auberge des Migrants and the mayor of Grande-Synthe, Damien Careme, said that strains from overcrowding were the underlying cause of the violence.

Humanitarian groups said the original camp was filthier and more risky than a huge makeshift camp in Calais, about 19 miles to the west, that was dismantled by the state in October. The riot stopped with police intervention.

"No one is able to explain how these events could have happened", Mr Lalande said. "All migrants' camps will be dismantled after my election if the French people elect me as head of state".

Police refused all comment on the clash and the fire.

Their arrival had increased tensions, according to Mr Caremelle.

"I thought it was normal that the Kurds were here, it was their camp, and we (Afghans) had Calais", Emal told AFP.

The camp was set up in March 2016 by Dunkirk city council and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) to shelter British-bound refugees and migrants who had been living in squalid conditions in an unofficial camp nearby.