30 May 2014

Hundreds of migrants and refugees living in three improvised camp sites in Calais lost their homes on Wednesday morning. Chief of police Denis Robin had announced the operation last week, saying: “It is out of the question that we encourage the setting up of a jungle”. While some people chose to leave the camps ahead of the evictions, others were forced to abandon their tents and meagre possessions, which will be destroyed, according to Secours Catholique departmental director, Vincent De Concick. Many of the people evicted have fled conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan.

Calling the evictions a ‘show operation that solves nothing’, 10 humanitarian groups, including France Terre d’Asile and Médecins du Monde (MDM), criticized the government’s response to the problem, stating: “the catastrophic health conditions led to an outbreak of scabies. Although we have repeatedly warned the government of the dangers to public health which this situation represents, no proper response has so far been made”. Cécile Bossy, of MDM, told The Independent that “from a health perspective, there was nothing professional about what happened.  No showers or treatment were offered”, despite official promises.

Recalling similar initiatives such as the dismantling of the Sangatte camp in 2002 and the Pashtun ‘Jungle’ in 2009, the letter to French officials also expressed concern that operations of this kind will only lead to inadequate medical care, instances of violence and an escalation of risky attempts to cross into the United Kingdom.

According to The Guardian, there was no indication of where the hundreds of migrants could or would go. The Independent reports that women and children were given temporary shelter.

Jalal, an Iraqi refugee in his early 20s, told Reuters: “It’s sad and it changes nothing. I’ll pitch my tent elsewhere. I’m going to hide and not be with the others. We’ll be less safe and we’ll have to hide, but I’m staying here”. “I’m going to try to cross [to England] again. I’ve not come all this way here to give up now.”

The director general of France Terre d’Asile, Pierre Henry, told The Independent: “What happened today is no solution. The authorities cannot allow a health hazard in the centre of Calais, that is true. But no alternative is offered…The only possible solution is a proper EU policy on migration and more cooperation between Britain and France to choose which of these migrants are genuine cases deserving asylum”.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 30 May 2014.
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