The Calais Jungle. Photo: AFP
French prison inspector Adeline Hazan had harsh words for France about its treatment of the refugees in the New Jungle, a campsite in Calais that is home to around 4,500 migrants.
The inspector, whose job is to ensure that people deprived of liberty in France have their fundamental rights respected, concluded in an eight-page report on Wednesday that there are “serious violations of human rights” at the camp.
She singled out breaches to migrants' rights after finding families were forcefully separated, as well as “disgraceful conditions” at refugee detention centres.
At one point, the inspector found 13 people crammed into one room measuring just 11 metres squared. Those detained often don't have adequate access to a toilet, nor a cover to sleep under, the independent body noted.
The report also hit out at the current process of “unclogging” the camp, which sees police descend on the Jungle to take migrants off to other parts of France.
It found that between October 21st and November 10th this year, a total of 779 people were taken from the camp. Some 578 were released without authorities even looking into or studying their cases.
The “unclogging” is intended to spread the refugees across the country to ease pressure on the Calais bottleneck as more migrants move into the port city in the hopes of crossing the Channel to get to the UK.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve denied any wrong-doing in a written reply and said the detentions were a temporary response to “unprecedented migratory pressure”.
He said the authorities “intended to deport all the foreigners placed in detention” and judicial procedures had been followed.
The Calais “round-ups” have also been a target by an investigative news site recently, which reported that France spends an annual €1.5 million ($1.7 million) on a private jet to transfer only a handful refugees at a time.
Frédéric Hochart, spokesperson for the UNSA police union in Calais, said at the time “most of the people who are sent away just come back anyway”.
The situation in Calais has proved an ugly blight on France's reputation as an asylum-seeking destination. Earlier this year, the NGO Human Rights Watch accused the police in Calais of “harassment and abuse” towards migrants in a highly critical report.
Last month, France's top administrative court backed an order that forces the French government to improve conditions at the camp after several other NGOs also concluded that the camp had “serious human rights violations”.