French police begin to clear migrants sheltered at Dunkirk gym

KONFRONTASI-French police are clearing nearly 1,000 migrants from a gymnasium near the northern port city of Dunkirk after a court ruled it was a health and security hazard.

The mayor of Grande-Synthe, a suburb of Dunkirk, last December opened up the sports hall to migrant families seeking shelter from the cold.

Since then, it has grown into a makeshift camp with approximately 800 people sleeping in tents pitched around the cramped gymnasium where some 170 people, mostly Iraqi Kurds hoping to reach the United Kingdom, had taken shelter.

A court in the regional city of Lille ordered the gymnasium shut on September 4 following complaints from local authorities and residents about violence, rubbish and the presence of people-smugglers among the migrants.

Tuesday's clearance operation began shortly after 8:00am local time (6:00 GMT).

Young men travelling alone were the first to board buses that will take them to migrant shelters around the region, where they can apply for asylum. Families are to be moved later.