16 French police hurt in clash with Calais migrants

Policemen patrol on November 5, 2015 in the "Jungle" migrants camp in Calais, northern France (AFP Photo/Philippe Huguen) (AFP/File)

Lille (France) (AFP) - Sixteen police officers were lightly injured during two hours of clashes with migrants in the northern French city of Calais, a local government spokesman said Monday.

He said the violence erupted late Sunday when some 200 migrants tried to block traffic on the ring road around the port city where thousands live in a sprawling camp hoping to find a way across the Channel to Britain.

They hurled rocks and other objects at police, who fired over 300 teargas grenades to disperse them, a police source said.

"It is the first time it has been so violent and we unfortunately have many colleagues injured," said Gilles Debove of the SGP police union.

"If one day there is a revolt in the camp, it will be madness," he said, describing the situation as worrying.

The interior ministry says the number of migrants at the slum-like "New Jungle" camp had fallen from 6,000 to 4,500 in recent weeks.

A source at the ministry said scores of people had agreed to give up their plans to reach Britain -- seen as a dream destination by many -- and had been bussed to other parts of France to be registered as asylum seekers.

Last week, a French court ordered the state to improve conditions in the camp, whose population exploded over the summer as Europe struggles with its worst migrant crisis since World War II.

The Calais migrant situation has strained tensions between Britain and France, but remains tiny compared to the numbers in other countries such as Germany which is expected to receive up to a million asylum requests this year.

Although the interior ministry says there have been no successful attempts to cross the Channel since October 25, there are still dozens of attempts daily, down from a peak in August when there were over 1,000 attempts a night.

At least 15 migrants have been killed this year in their bid to reach Britain.