30 October 2015

On 26 October, several aid groups lodged a complaint with a court in Lille in an attempt to force France to take the necessary emergency measures in Calais. The humanitarian agencies, actively giving aid in the camps, blame French authorities for lacking the will and resolution to solve the inhumane conditions of the 6,000 refugees living in the area.

The ‘recours en référé’ is conducted by Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and Secours Catholique (Caritas France), with La Cimade, la Ligue des droits de l’Homme, Amnesty International France, Acat-France, ELENA-France et le Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples (MRAP) supporting.

The joint appeal marks an unprecedented cooperation of these French NGOs who demands that the camp should be dismantled and its inhabitants accommodated in adequate housing. They base their request on the violation of these refugees fundamental rights, forced to live in a slum, often referred to as ‘the jungle of Calais’.

With winter around the corner, the French government has been criticized for not doing enough for those living in conditions which have been described by various NGOs as ‘worse than a refugee camp you would see in a war zone’.

“There are 6,000 people living in deplorable conditions. And everyone knows it. It’s a disaster. France is the sixth largest economic power in the world. We have the capacity to at least provide food and water for these people. This is not a question of a lack of capacity or know-how or means. It’s just a question of political will and them not wanting to take charge of the situation correctly,” said Jean-François Corty, Programme Director for Médecins du Monde.

“This situation is not worthy of a country like France. It is equally unworthy of a country like the United Kingdom and of a community like the European Union,” Le Monde newspaper wrote, in last Sunday’s editorial.

Recently, France’s interior minister announced that heated tents would be sent to the camps and that security would be reinforced. Some refugees will be offered accommodation for a month in different parts of France and concerted efforts would be made to persuade those migrants in Calais to seek asylum in France, as 2,000 places will be made available.

French aid groups say these attempts are just examples of “constant improvisation” in the government’s policy towards Calais, leaving no alternative but to take the French government to court.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 30 October 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.