French police blasted for ‘routinely’ using pepper spray on migrants
A rights group has accused French police of using pepper spray on migrants in Calais on a regular basis but authorities deny the claims.
Published: 26 July 2017 09:05 CEST
French police are regularly using pepper spray against migrants in Calais, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday, an accusation denied by authorities.
In a report entitled “Like living in hell” the use of pepper spray against migrants massed in the northern coastal city is described as “routine”.
“Police use of pepper spray in Calais is so common that many asylum seekers and migrants had difficulty recalling precisely how many times they had been sprayed,” the report said.
Of 61 migrants questioned by the prominent international human rights group between the end of June and the beginning of July, 55 said they had been sprayed during the two weeks before the interview, and some said they had been sprayed every day, the author of the report, Michael Garcia Bochenek, told AFP.
“The 55 were sprayed while they slept,” he said, adding that he had talked to groups of varying nationalities in different locations, but the similarity of their stories “shows there is a serious problem”.
“These are practices that have become routine, without there being any consequences, and that is when they become serious abuses,” HRW France Director Benedicte Jeannerod told AFP.
For more than a decade France's northern coast has been a magnet for refugees and migrants trying to reach Britain.
In October last year Calais' notorious makeshift camp, nicknamed “the Jungle”, where thousands lived in the hope of climbing aboard trucks or trains to get across the Channel, was dismantled.
But HRW said hundreds of asylum seekers and migrants, mostly Eritreans, Ethiopians and Afghans, are still living on the streets and in wooded areas in
and around the port city.
“Every day, the police chase us. They use spray. They kick us. This is our life every day,” said Waysira L, a 16-year-old boy from the Oromo community, an ethnic group in east Africa.
Fabien Sudry, prefect for the Pas-de-Calais region, “categorically denied the false and defamatory allegations” in the report, which he said “have no evidential basis”.
“Police of course operate in Calais respecting the rules of law, with the sole objective of ensuring public order and security,” Sudry added.
“This is a prosecution case,” said David Michaux, national delegate for the UNSA police union.
Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains
A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.
Published: 27 May 2022 17:22 CEST
Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.
Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.
“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.
Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.
Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.
The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.
The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.
The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.
The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.
“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.
“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”
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