France to begin moving migrant minors from Calais on Wednesday: officials

CALAIS, France (Reuters) - French authorities will on Wednesday begin transferring about 1,500 unaccompanied migrant minors to reception centers across the country, officials said on Tuesday, as a standoff with Britain over who takes care of the youths drags on.

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The minors have been housed temporarily in converted shipping containers in Calais.

Demolition teams finished tearing down unoccupied shacks and tents in the northern seaside town on Monday after last week’s evacuation of thousands of migrants from the “Jungle” camp where more than 6,000 people were living, most in the hope of making it across the Channel to Britain.

Tensions between London and Paris have mounted in recent days after President Francois Hollande urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to accept Britain’s share of responsibility for the minors.

Britain is obliged under EU rules to take in minors with verified family ties.

“The minors will be taken by bus to reception centers for minors across France throughout the day,” Stephane Duval, who heads a state-run shelter built with shipping containers within the camp, told Reuters. “There will be no departures to Britain for now. Their applications will be studied at a later stage.”

A second official, who declined to be identified, said the evacuation would take several days.

“It’s about 1,500 minors who will go to reception centers, where they will meet personnel from the Home Office (British interior ministry),” the official said.

Hollande said on Monday that minors who do not leave for Britain will be taken care of by the French state, adding that in a few days there would be no more foreign minors in Calais.

The Calais camp came to symbolize Europe’s fraught efforts to cope with a record influx of migrants fleeing strife in countries from Afghanistan to Sudan.

Ahead of the transfer, local police said about 100 Eritrean and Afghan minors had fought in the southern part of the camp on Tuesday evening, forcing riot police to intervene.

Reporting by Pascal Rossignol in Calais and Matthias Blamont in Paris; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Hugh Lawson