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Protesters block Calais roads seeking migrant camp closure

CALAIS, France — Truckers, farmers, dockers, and merchants angry at the disruption caused by thousands of migrants in their midst in the northern French city of Calais blocked the main access route to Britain on Friday to press authorities to set the date to raze an overcrowded makeshift camp.

The action is the first of its kind in the city, for decades a magnet for migrants trying to cross the English Channel, hopping Britain-bound trucks and trains to get across.

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Authorities have poured in police — about 2,000 — to guard roadways, and built barbed-wire fences to protect the Eurotunnel freight trains, the port, and highway, but desperate migrants are using increasingly dangerous tactics to slow trucks and hitch a ride.

The state says some 7,000 migrants are living in the camp, known as ‘‘the jungle,’’ while aid groups have put the number at more than 9,000. All are living in a drastically downsized camp after half was razed in March.

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In a separate development Monday, Italy’s coast guard said a total of 15 bodies were recovered over the course of 23 different rescue operations involving migrant boats. The coast guard said a total of 2,700 would-be refugees were rescued from 19 rubber boats and four small vessels.

For the French protesters, the migrants — from Africa, the Middle East, and beyond — are an economic drain on Calais and a stain on its image.

‘‘We are truckers, not migrant traffickers. Let’s liberate Calais together,’’ read a sign on the front of some big rigs.

Associated Press

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