Calais Jungle Violence Yesterday
Care4Calais condemns the way that French authorities have handled recent evictions in the Calais Jungle.
In a press conference last week the Prefecture assured journalists that the dismantling of the southern part of the camp would be gradual, humane and respectful to the dignity of the people living in the camp. The Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazenove, reiterated this insisting the approach would be humanitarian. The lawyer from the Prefecture at the hearing last Tuesday said that the two key reasons for evacuating the Jungle were the dignity of refugees and their security.
The scenes of panic reported yesterday were a far cry from these commitments. The aggressive way in which this demolition was carried out increases the psychological pressure on the refugees in the camp, majority of whom have already been traumatised. The authorities’ show of force with over 200 police officers in full body armour with batons and shields is in complete contradiction to what was promised by the Prefect and the French Minster of the Interior.
If the intention truly was, as stated, to move people to better accommodation why the excessive haste to destroy existing homes? Why not move people out then return in four weeks time for the clearance? Instead, yesterday, we saw people being forced from homes that were immediately destroyed before their eyes. The objective is clearly the destruction of the camp.
The refugees were told they had one hour to leave their homes or they would be arrested. Many were escorted from the homes by armed police. We consider this approach to be extremely confrontational and unnecessarily provocative to people who have already suffered so much.
It was confirmed in the French court that only 1156 alternative accommodation places were currently available in Calais and throughout France. The Jungle is home to over 5000 refugees of which 3,455 live in this southern section alone. A recent survey by L’Auberge des Migrants and Help Refugees found more than 440 children – of whom 291 are unaccompanied minors – live in the section that is being destroyed right now. Therefore there is nowhere near enough alternative accommodation being provided for the numbers that are being made homeless.
The levels of violence seen in the camp yesterday were completely disproportionate. Over 200 police with prevalent firing of tear gas and use of water cannons. There are over 5000 people in the camp including families with young children, elderly people and unaccompanied children. Turning their communities into a war zone is dangerous, terrifying and not at all necessary. Many of our volunteers were in the camp all day yesterday and all commented that the only time they felt afraid was from the French police.
We also condemn the French court’s decision to demolish parts of the camp. We hope the humanitarian crisis created in Calais will reach a conclusion soon and that the French and British authorities will safeguard the basic human rights and safety of the people living there. Asylum is a right, and repression of refugees is a denial of democracy.