Blaze burning down French migrant camp after clash

Blaze burning down French migrant camp after clash

A camp that housed more than 1,500 migrants in northern France has been destroyed in a huge fire.

The camp was opened past year by Médecins sans Frontiers and Grande-Synthe mairie but Nord prefect Michel Lalande said it was left a "heap of ashes". "We don't know exactly for what they fight" but just look at what happened today, he said, speaking English.

Authorities say they believe the fire was set intentionally and was linked to a fight earlier on Monday between Kurdish and Afghan migrant groups.

Migrants and refugees gather along France's northern coast seeking to reach the United Kingdom. We don't have any place.

The population of the Grande-Synthe camp has swelled since the destruction last October of the squalid "Jungle" camp near Calais, about 40 kilometres away.

"There must have been fires deliberately set in several different places, it is not possible otherwise", said Olivier Caremelle, chief of staff of Grande-Synthe mayor Damien Careme, an environmentalist who supported the building of the camp previous year.

Le Pen on Tuesday repeated that she would close migrant camps and France's borders, also drastically cutting migration should she be elected. The fire, which is said to be have been started deliberately, quickly spread and destroyed the wooden cabins that had been built for the camp, which opened in May 2016. After the people were evacuated, authorities began demolishing the camp, which was home to an estimated 6,000 to 9,000 people before it was closed.

The incident is a sensitive topic in France, just 12 days ahead of a presidential election in which immigration is a key issue.

"I lost all my documents", said an Iraqi migrant who identified himself only as Albidani, standing outside the camp. Around 500 were given shelter in three municipal gymnasiums and the government said it would speed up admission to reception centres for migrants wanting to apply for asylum in France.

People in France - and the rest of Europe - have grown increasingly hostile to the huge wave of refugees that has been coming to the continent over the last few years. "We lost everything", Albidani said.

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