French police dismantle Dunkirk migrant camp

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A makeshift camp near the French port of Dunkirk, where an estimated 1,500 migrants hoping to cross the Channel to Britain had gathered, has been evacuated by police.

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France has dismantled a large migrant camp on its northern coast where increasing numbers of people hoping to reach the UK had settled, reports BBC News.

French officers pulled down tents and evacuated up to 1,500 migrants from the site, near Dunkirk, early on Tuesday.

Authorities also say they have arrested 35 suspected people smugglers.

France is in a row with the UK over its handling of rising numbers of migrants trying to cross the English Channel from camps in northern France.

Last Thursday 1,185 people made the often dangerous crossing, a record number that the UK government said was "unacceptable".

The UK has accused French authorities of not doing enough to control the crossings, and called on them to clamp down on people smuggling.

France meanwhile has accused the UK government of blowing the scale of migration out of proportion for political reasons, and failing to deter people from making the crossing.

The issue has damaged UK-France relations, which were already strained over a number of issues, ranging from fishing rights in the Channel, to a deal with Australia on nuclear submarines.

France's interior minister Gérald Darmanin said on Tuesday morning that the migrant camp in the Dunkirk suburb of Grande-Synthe was being evacuated on his instruction.

French police said that 663 people had already been transported on 23 buses to a shelter.

Mr Darmanin said the new arrests meant France had detained more than 1,300 suspected people smugglers since January.

"These smugglers are criminals who exploit human misery, overseers of illegal immigration," the minister tweeted.

Videos posted on social media showed scores of police vans at the camp, and people being taken onto coaches.

BFM TV said the number of migrants in the camp had more than tripled in two months, from 400 in early September to about 1,500 people recently.

See more of this report, with video, from BBC News.

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