French and British back sending army to Calais

When it comes to how to solve the migrant problem in Calais, a majority of both the French and British are in favour of sending in the army, but each nation is quick to blame the other for the ongoing crisis, a poll has revealed.

French and British back sending army to Calais
Migrants in Calais are becoming ever-more desperate to cross the Channel to the UK. Photo: AFP
A call by the furious head of a UK hauliers association for the British army to be sent to Calais has won support from the general public in both Britain and France, a new poll has revealed.
A survey by YouGov found that a majority of the British public (67 percent) favoured sending in troops to help police the Eurotunnel and ferry terminals in Calais which are subject to nightly raids by migrants desperate to reach the UK.
And in France, where resentment has grown towards a 2003 treaty that moved the British border to French soil, there is also support among the public for sending in UK troops.
The survey revealed 54 percent of French people were in favour of sending in the troops, whereas as 27 percent opposed the idea.
It is not just the French public who would accept a deployment of British soldiers on French soil, with the head of local French police union also suggesting the idea of British soldiers helping to police the ferry and shuttle terminals was not a bad one.
“We have only 15 permanent French border police at the Eurotunnel site. Can you imagine how derisory this is given the situation? So I say, why not bring in the British army, and let them work together with the French?” said Bruno Noel, head of the Alliance union in Calais.
However when it comes to who is to blame for the Calais crisis, the public in France think a little differently to their British counterparts.
“You might expect French people to be blame the British government more, but actually they’re most likely to say the French and British government have equal responsibility (41 percent say this) or that neither of them do (33 percent),” writes Will Dahlgreen of YouGov. 
“Only 11 percent of French people blame the British government.”
But over the other side of the Channel, British people are quick to blame the French government with 40 percent saying Paris is more responsible for the crisis. 
And when it comes to the reason why so many migrants want to get to Britain, the British public believe it is because the UK has more welfare benefits, whereas the French think migrants head across the channel because it is easier to work without official documentation in Britain.


French police cause misery for migrants in Calais

French police are inflicting misery on migrants in the northern port of Calais, routinely tearing down their tents and forcing them to wander the streets as part of a deterrence policy, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published on Thursday.

French police cause misery for migrants in Calais
A migrant camp is evacuated by police forces in Calais in February 2019. Photo: Philippe HUGUEN / AFP.

The 75-page report documents methods used by authorities to prevent the emergence of another major migrant settlement in Calais, five years after the demolition of the sprawling “Jungle” camp which housed up to 10,000 people at its peak.

Calais has for years been a rallying point for migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa trying to sneak across the English Channel to Britain.

Faced with growing public anti-migrant sentiment, President Emmanuel Macron’s government has waged a campaign to prevent new camps emerging.

Police tactics include systematically tearing down migrants’ tents in the woods, on wasteland or under bridges, regularly confiscating their belongings and harassing NGOs trying to provide them with aid, according to New York-based HRW.

“The authorities carry out these abusive practices with the primary purposes of forcing people to move elsewhere, without resolving their
migration status or lack of housing, or of deterring new arrivals,” it said in the report entitled “Enforced Misery: The Degrading Treatment of Migrant Children and Adults in Northern France”.

‘Harass and abuse’

NGOs estimate the number of migrants currently living around Calais at between 1,500 and 2,000, including numerous families. Local authorities estimate that only 500 remain in the area.

Last week, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin ordered the eviction of a camp housing 400 migrants near a hospital in Calais, which was presented as a danger to the hospital’s patients and staff.

On that occasion the migrants were taken to temporary shelters but often they are left to wander the streets.

“When the police arrive, we have five minutes to get out of the tent before they destroy everything,” a Kurdish woman from Iraq told HRW.

The interior ministry did not respond to AFP’s request for comment on the report.

The government argues that the camps are havens for people smugglers, who command extortionate fees to help migrants cross to Britain, either in a small boat crossing the Channel in the dead of night or stowed away on a truck crossing by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel.

NGOs argue that the tactics do nothing more than make migrants already difficult lives even more miserable.

The report quoted the Calais-based Human Rights Observers group as saying that in some cases cleaning crews cut migrants’ tents while people are still inside, in order to force them out.

“If the aim is to discourage migrants from gathering in northern France, these policies are a manifest failure and result in serious harm,” Benedicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch, said.

French authorities “need a new approach to help people, not repeatedly harass and abuse them,” she added.

A total of 15,400 people attempted to cross the Channel in the first eight months of this year, a increase of 50 percent over the figure for the whole of 2020, according to French coast guard statistics.

“Exiles aren’t travelling to northern France because they’ve heard they can camp in the woods or stay under a bridge…They come because that’s where the border is,” Charlotte Kwantes, national coordinator of the Utopia 56 charity was quoted in the report as saying.