CALAIS, France : French police early Wednesday cleared a food handout centre and three squats in the port of Calais occupied by more than 600 migrants waiting to try to illegally cross the Channel to Britain.

Police cars and dinghies blocked road and sea access to the port after receiving a court order backing local authorities’ concerns over sanitary conditions in the food distribution centre.  The local administration said in a statement that 610 migrants, including 121 children, had been evacuated. They will be questioned and their cases examined individually. Denis Robin, the top official of the region, said three people had been arrested, including two activists from the No Border Network.  Migrants who tried to escape by entering nearby homes were apprehended, one resident said. “It began at around 6:00 am. I was inside and the cops came and they blocked all the exits and used tear gas to stop people from fleeing,” said Celine, a 25-year-old volunteer at the food distribution centre.

Camille, a nurse, said about 25 migrants had managed to escape.

Many of them came from countries that had suffered conflict such as Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan.

The migrants had been occupying the food distribution centre since police cleared three makeshift camps holding 650 people at the end of May.

French police have been trying for years to dislodge migrant camps in and around Calais.

But the flow has been persistent, with many migrants hoping to hide in trucks or other vehicles crossing to Britain, where they believe conditions are better for would-be refugees than in France.