Camp Evictions: Update
The proposed clearance of the southern half of the camp was announced on Friday when we were told that we had one week before the French authorities would issue a 48 hour eviction notice on this land. In contrast to the previous time this happened – when the 100 metre zone by the motorway was bulldozed – it is questionable whether there will be any advantage to be gained by moving the shelters in the southern zone. We have heard that if the clearance of the southern half goes ahead the French Authorities will then also clear the northern half in the coming weeks. It therefore appears that the only option available is to contest this decision both politically and legally.
Our understanding is that the French Authorities are not able to execute eviction notices unless there is somewhere else for the people to go. This is why, in late 2014, a halt was called to clearances of squats and small camps in Calais city centre until the Jules Ferry centre opened in March 2015 and the land next to it was made available to refugees. At this time the associations working for the refugees in Calais were informed that, if the migrants settled on this plot of land placed at their disposal by the town council, they would not be at any risk of expulsion. It would therefore appear that if they are now evicted this would be a promise broken by French Authorities.
In terms of where they could move to now it has been suggested that 700 paces will be made available in the new container camp. However, we estimate that if the southern half of the camp is cleared this will make around 2500 people homeless.
It has also been suggested that the refugees could move to the winter respite centres (CAOs) set up around France by the French Authorities in November. There are currently 2500 refugees staying in these centres and we understand that a further 2000 places will be available. However, this needs to be considered in the context of why there are refugees in Calais.
There are millions of refugees in Europe due to current worldwide events. In this context the 5000 in Calais is actually a small number. Many are here because they have family in the UK, have lived in the UK before and English is their second language. They come to Calais because they want to go to the UK. They don’t want to be in a centre in Marseille or Nimes. When the winter respite centres were set up in November we were told that they were purely to get through the depths of winter, that there was no obligation to claim asylum in France and that refugees staying in them would be brought back to Calais in March.