A massive brawl involving at least a hundred African migrants from Eritrea and Ethiopia broke out in northern France’s port city of Calais, which was once home to the notorious ‘Jungle’ refugee camp.
The fighting between Eritreans and Ethiopians started around 1:45pm local time (11:45 GMT), France Info reports, citing the local prefecture. The clashes erupted on a road leading to the neighboring town of Gravelines, where free meals were being distributed to the migrants by various charity associations.
Exactly how many migrants were involved in the fighting is still unclear, as France Info and the 20 Minutes daily put the number at around 100, while La Voix du Nord reports that some 200 people participated in the brawl.
The fighters were armed with sticks and hurled stones at each other. Riot police had to move in to break up clashes.
At least one person was seriously injured, French media outlets report. According to the police, 15 other migrants received minor injuries, AFP reports.
“In all, 16 migrants have been hospitalized, 15 for minor injuries and one with a more serious head injury,” a police official, Etienne Desplanques, told AFP. Ten people, mostly Eritreans, were arrested.
The situation was under control by mid-afternoon, a police official told AFP.
Information about the fighting was also confirmed by the Calais’s subprefect, Vincent Berton, who told La Voix du Nord that the authorities “will ensure that there are no other disturbances, especially for the [local] residents.”
The Saturday brawl follows another outbreak of violence that took place in the port city on Friday, when clashes also erupted between Ethiopians and Eritreans while charity groups were distributing aid.
Police had to intervene to break up four fights using tear gas that evening, Calais’ deputy mayor, Philippe Mignonet, told AFP. Nine people suffered light injuries in those brawls.
“In the past 12 hours, in terms of violence, there’s been an escalation,” Mignonet told AFP.
The situation in Calais, which once hosted the infamous ‘Jungle’ camp, is heating up again. On June 20, a van driver died on the highway to Calais in an accident caused by a roadblock of tree trunks set up by migrants.
Nine Eritrean nationals were detained in connection with the incident, which is said to be the first involving barriers set up by migrants that has resulted in death. Roadblocks have frequently been reported in the past, as migrants set them up to slow down vehicles headed to the UK to make it easier for them to climb on board.
The practice all but ceased after the notorious makeshift ‘Jungle’ camp, which once hosted thousands of migrants, was dismantled in October of 2016. However, the practice has resumed recently, according to French police.
Up to 600 migrants are believed to live near Calais, which is a jumping off point for migrants seeking to reach the UK. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb has sent more than 150 police officers there to deal with roadblock incidents.
French officials warned in May that Calais could witness another massive migrant surge this summer, which could plunge the port city into violence.
Migrants scattered around France are returning to the city, where they are joined each day by fresh arrivals, of whom many, after months of traveling, are unaware the ‘Jungle’ has been torn down.