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Brawl Between Afghan, Eritrean Migrants In France Leaves 4 Wounded

Migrants carrying sticks march in the streets of Calais, northern France, on Thursday. French authorities say four migrants have been shot in the northern port city of Calais in a confrontation that police tried to stop.

Four migrants have been shot in a gunfight that broke out between Afghan and Eritrean migrants in France's port city of Calais.

Reports differ on the conditions of the four wounded — The Associated Press says that all four were seriously hurt in the two-hour brawl, but France 24 reports that only one is in critical condition after the fight, involving hundreds of migrants "who had been queueing for food handouts."

Deutche Welle says the four shot were all Eritreans between the ages of 16 and 18.

The French news service says a second fight broke out later in another part of town, with about a hundred Eritreans fighting some 20 Afghans. At least 12 people were injured there by "blows from iron bars," news agencies report.

The AP writes:

"The Pas-de-Calais prefecture said security forces were trying to protect Afghan migrants during a melee with Eritreans when the injuries happened.

The prefecture ... had said earlier that two confrontations between Afghan and Eritrean migrants culminated in the gunfire. It is unusual for migrants to carry firearms."

Tensions are high in the city, which is a gateway for hundreds of migrants hoping to use it to cross the English Channel to the U.K. Humanitarian groups put the number of migrants living in Calais at about 800, but authorities say the figure is around 600.

According to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, reporting from Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron has said that makeshift migrant camps would no longer be tolerated and that migrants must report to official centers.

However, humanitarian organizations say Europe's convoluted asylum process makes it nearly impossible for people to get the help they need.

A notorious camp in the city, known as "The Jungle," once housed 10,000 people, but was torn down in 2016. However, "hundreds of migrants remain in the port city seeking to stow away on England-bound trucks" via the Channel Tunnel.

The clashes come weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron signed a treaty with Britain to speed up processing of migrants in Calais.

According to the BBC:

"Mr. Macron said the Sandhurst Treaty signed on Thursday - the first joint treaty on the Calais border in 15 years - would "enable us to improve the relationship and the management of the joint border" and reduce the time taken to process migrants.

It would mean the time taken to process migrants hoping to come to the UK from Calais, would be reduced from six months to one month for adults and 25 days for children."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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