Riot police and migrants and asylum seekers in a camp near the French port of Calais have clashed in overnight violence that aid workers said reflects the growing frustration of its residents' inability to smuggle themselves aboard trucks and trains bound for England.
Calais police said officers monitoring the 6,000-resident shantytown east of the city were pelted with rocks after midnight Monday and again Tuesday as several people repeatedly tried to block a neighboring highway that leads to the main ferry terminal. They said 27 officers suffered minor injuries, including 11 early on Tuesday.
There are no details of injuries sustained by the refugees.
Aid workers said police fired tear gas canisters at rock-throwing crowds on the highway and in the camp. Camp residents said sparks and heat from some canisters caused scorch damage to tents, but no serious injuries were reported, as most campers sought safety inside their tents and shacks.
"Police came into the camp, halfway up the main drag, and fired tear gas right into the camp," said Rowan Farrell, a volunteer from Manchester, England, who helps run a library and other support services for the camp.
Tensions have been mounting since France started imposing tough new security measures, including 15-foot-high razor-wire-topped fences and increased police patrols, to stop the flow of undocumented people from reaching Britain by boat or train.
France and Britain announced security measures over the summer to counter the movement of people from the Calais camp, known as the Jungle.
Thousands of refugees flooded the tunnel between the two countries over the summer, and many tried to jump onto U.K.-bound trucks stuck in traffic.
Police said they fired tear gas to force people off the highway that overlooks the camp and leads to cargo and passenger ferries less than a mile away. Officials said the latest overnight clashes lasted about five hours.
Campers said Muslim hard-liners in the camp were angered by news Sunday of an anti-immigrant demonstration in central Calais. That rally attracted barely 80 people.
But refugees and foreign volunteers helping them in the camp say the rising nighttime unrest chiefly reflects growing frustration, particularly among young single men given lowest priority for better housing, because the tightened security has effectively killed their hopes of reaching Britain.
"There's more and more desperation in the camp coming to a climax," Farrell said.
Over the past two weeks, Calais police have greatly increased police monitoring of the camp, which is tolerated by French authorities and is supported largely by private charities.
Two of the charities, Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and Secours Catholique (Catholic Aid) filed a complaint against the nearby city of Lille, demanding that authorities provide basic sanitation and medical care for Calais residents.
Earlier this month, a French court ordered Lille's municipal government to improve conditions at the camp by organizing trash collection and installing bathrooms in the camp, where most residents lack access to water and electricity.
Al Jazeera and wire services