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CALAIS

Calais migrant camp will ‘soon be completely cleared’

The mayor of Calais in northern France has said the remaining northern part of the Jungle camp, where thousands of migrants are camped out in squalid conditions will soon be cleared.

Calais migrant camp will 'soon be completely cleared'
Photo: AFP

Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, said she has been given word by the ministry of interior that the northern part of the sprawling Jungle camp on the outskirts of Calais will be evacuated.

“It is absolutely urgent for this town, its people and its businesses,” said Bouchart when asked about the dismantling of The Jungle.

“We cannot wait any longer, we need to know as soon as possible how the Jungle will be cleared,” she added.

The southern part of the Jungle was cleared back in March, with occupants forced to either move into adjacent permanent lodgings in shipping containers or accept to be moved to “welcome centres” in other parts of France while they apply for asylum.

(AFP)

However in reality many of those displaced simply shifted their tents to the northern part of the camp, which has become increasingly cramped, or set up new camps in the area.

Local authorities estimate there are around 4,500 migrants left in the Jungle camp.

The local prefecture has preferred not to comment on the mayor’s statement, but it has long been expected that authorities will try to close the makeshift camp where migrants and refugees live in terrible conditions.

“An unsanitary camp is not a long term project,” said the prefecture.

“It is not an end in itself and that is why the southern part was dismantled,” said the prefecture.

Aid groups insist however that the camp should remain in place until the government has come up with a viable, humanitarian option for the thousands who would affected.

Dismantling the camp will no doubt raise more questions about how France will house the displaced.

When the southern part of the Jungle was cleared it lead to violence while another knock on effect was that migrants spread out to other northern ports along the Channel coast in the hope of finding an easier passage to the UK.

“The methodology for dismantling the camp is in the process of being refined,” said Mayor Bouchart.

The government has not said whether it plans to increase the number of lodgings in the shipping containers if the Jungle is eventually cleared.

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POLICE

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.

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