GRANDE-SYNTHE: French police cleared 1,800 migrants from a makeshift camp near Dunkirk on Tuesday, hoping to deter people-traffickers seeking to smuggle them across the Channel to Britain.
Hundreds of police flooded the Grande-Synthe camp at dawn to expel the migrants, most of them Iraqi Kurds, who were loaded onto dozens of buses bound for shelters.
While the infamous "Jungle" camp in nearby Calais was razed in 2016, migrants continue to head to the coast hoping to stow away on trucks travelling to Britain.
Refugees and others seeking a better life have long used the wooded, lakeside area near Dunkirk as a jumping-off point for attempted crossings, and this was the sixth such operation in five months.
The migrants, including many families, "will be cared for and given shelter in emergency accommodation throughout the Hauts-de-Seine region and other regions nearby," local authorities said in a statement.
The operation was intended "to stop human trafficking in these camps where smuggling rings are active," they added.
Some migrants were aware of the impending swoop and left the camp ahead of the operation -- "but tomorrow, many will be back," predicted Claude Lenoir of Salam, an aid group working with migrants.
"They need to be given temporary housing, but we know full well that some migrants will return, as is always the case," said Akim Toualbia, deputy head of Drop, another migrants' aid group.
The migrants were living in the camp with no access to showers or toilets as the winter chill begins to set in, he added.
Newly appointed Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who was due to visit later Tuesday, has vowed to take a tough stance on illegal immigration.
France received a record 100,000 asylum requests in 2017, up 17 percent from the year before.
Police had clashed overnight with migrants who set up roadblocks near the port of Calais, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) west, though officials said there were no casualties.
Migrants have repeatedly set up roadblocks at night in an attempt to slow trucks heading onto ferries bound for Britain, hoping to make it easier to slip aboard.