Reuters International

A view shows makeshift shelters, tents and containers where migrants live in what is known as the "Jungle", a sprawling camp in Calais, France, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol


LILLE/PARIS (Reuters) - A group of charities have asked a court in France to block the imminent closure of the "Jungle" migrant camp in northern France where thousands of refugees are holed up in squalid conditions, many of them desperate to reach Britain.

Facing public pressure ahead of a presidential election in April, President Francois Hollande has said the camp in Calais will be dismantled by the end of the year. Aid workers in the camp spoke this week of a demolition start date as early as Oct. 17.

The Secours Catholique charity, one of those seeking the injunction, said the request was lodged at a court in Lille on Wednesday evening. A judicial source said an emergency ruling should be delivered within 48 hours.

Secours Catholique said it was not opposed to dismantling the makeshift Jungle camp but that it was worried about the rollout of plans to resettle the migrants elsewhere and wanted the government to take the time needed to ensure they were relocated properly.

"Contrary to what we were told, the plan is to dismantle the Jungle very quickly and do it in a matter of days," it said in a statement. "It will be impossible to ensure serious preparations that cater properly to people's interests."

Hollande's Socialist government has already started moving groups of refugees to new locations throughout the country ahead of a final phase in which the camp will be demolished.

This week, some migrants joined the last voluntary resettlement convoys, leaving the camp that has become a symbol of Europe's struggle to respond to an influx of refugees fleeing war and poverty in countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan and Eritrea.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont and Pierre Savary; Writing by Brian Love; editing by Richard Lough)


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