Work to clear the Jungle migrant camp in Calais will commence on Monday, the French authorities have announced.
Officials at France’s interior ministry have insisted all the almost 6,500 migrants they have counted in the camp will be offered relocation in reception centres in France or other countries.
The UK Government has called for as many unaccompanied children with links to the UK as possible to be transferred from the camp before the bulldozers move in.
The announcement on the Jungle’s fate came as the latest group of refugee children to arrive in the UK from the camp were kept hidden behind a screen, with campaigners insisting this was to to protect them rather than to hide their age.
The dismantling of the camp is a major issue for French President Francois Hollande and his Socialist government ahead of next year’s presidential election, with opponents viewing immigration as a policy battleground.
Interior ministry officials say more than 7,500 places have been made available for the refugees living in the camp and have promised they will be sheltered under dignified conditions during the examination of their requests for asylum.
Britons heading to the continent have been warned they may face delays as a result of the clearance operation, which is expected to last several days.
The Foreign Office said: “The French government has declared its intention to clear the migrant camp in Calais, starting on Monday October 24.
“Although the French government has plans in place to manage disruption, there remains a possibility that those travelling to Calais port may experience some delays during the clearance, which is expected to last several days.”
Travellers have been advised to check with the operator of their cross-channel service before setting off.
Child refugees with links to the UK could be eligible to come to Britain under the European Union’s so-called Dublin rules while other unaccompanied children could also travel across the Channel following the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said earlier this month that “as many minors as possible” eligible to come to the UK under the Dublin regulations should be moved from the Jungle before the clearance starts.
She also offered UK funds to ensure children who may be eligible under the Dubs amendment are “looked after in safe facilities where their best interests are properly considered”.
Dozens of refugees have come to the UK from the camp in recent days, with the latest arrivals shielded by plastic screening at the Home Office building in Croydon.
Citizens UK, who organised a “Refugees Welcome” event for their arrival, said the screens were put up at the request of the Home Office to protect the youngsters - rather than to keep their ages under wraps following controversy about how old some of the child refugees looked.
After the arrival of refugees on Monday, Tory MP David Davies commented they “don’t look like children” and said dental checks would reassure the public.
Crowds of supporters brandishing balloons and banners chanted “Calais kids are welcome here” as the children stepped off the bus on to British soil.
They held a minute’s silence earlier in the day to reflect upon the situation in the refugee camp.
More than 70 refugees have arrived from Calais this week and many more are expected to come this weekend before the Jungle is demolished.
Reuben Martin, pastor of West Croydon Baptist Church, who was waiting with the crowds for the refugees, said: “Today has been brilliant - maybe 150 or maybe 200 people cheering their arrival here into Britain.
“There has been some bad press news about these children and we, the Croydon community, just want to say ‘you’re welcome’ - every child should be reunited with their family.”
He said the children are interviewed by the immigration service when they arrive at the Home Office, accompanied by Citizens UK volunteers.
“The news I’m hearing is that these are definitely children - the way they act, the way they talk, the way they play. These are children and I don’t think their faces should be photographed.”