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French authorities declare the Calais migrant camp empty

CALAIS, France — French authorities declared the Calais migrant camp known as ‘‘the jungle’’ empty on Wednesday, after fires set by departing migrants accelerated plans to evacuate the burgeoning slum.

Local officials announced the destruction of the camp, where thousands fleeing war and poverty have lived in squalor as they waited for a chance to sneak across the English Channel into Britain. Migrants are being moved to reception centers around France where they can seek asylum.

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‘‘The camp is completely empty. There are no more migrants in the camp,’’ said Prefect Fabienne Buccio, the state’s highest authority in the region. ‘‘Our mission has been fully fulfilled.’’

She said fires that engulfed wide swaths of the sprawling camp after midnight and continuing Wednesday ‘‘show the camp is empty.’’

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Authorities said four Afghans had been detained earlier Wednesday on suspicion of setting fires, which slightly injured one person who was taken to the local hospital.

‘‘When Afghans leave, they set fires. It’s not our custom,’’ Buccio said.

Cleaning crews were moving in Wednesday night to clear debris and remove remaining tents and shelters, she said.

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Migrants were seen milling around despite the announcement, but authorities said they would be done processing people by Wednesday evening.

Migrants have flocked to the Calais region for decades, but the camp has grown as Europe’s migrant crisis expanded. As it evolved into a massive slum supported by aid groups, France finally decided to shut it down.

Officials said that 1,500 migrants would be sent to reception centers around France on Wednesday. A total of 5,000 have been given shelter since the first day of the operation on Monday.

That includes unaccompanied minors being housed in heated housing in the camp, apparently untouched by the blazes.

Associated Press

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