by Carine Belmont
Every morning, 7000 to 10 000 people wake up in what the French media called the ‘Jungle’ of Calais, in the North of France. But, on this Monday 24th of October, everything is going to change. The French Government started the dismantling of the migrant camp. The few miles of makeshift housing from where a crowd of migrants is going to disappear and the conditions of this huge operation generate serious concerns from numerous charities.
Thousands of migrants are now leaving the camp to be dispersed across France. First of all, the migrants, for those who accept it, are regrouped into a big shed. Once inside, they have to choose between two regions. Then, they are directed to tents and put on buses, direction – the shelters. Otherwise, they have 72 hours to leave the area.
“We are not optimistic at all. What we are saying for weeks is becoming true. It is a lightning raid with a strong police presence. People were uninformed about the situation. All of this is deplorable”, regrets an official of the charity Emmaus-France, especially as the French Government did not still communicate to associations the locations of the shelters, which will receive the migrants. He underlines also that “the government has clearly expressed its intention to expel people who are not eligible for the right of asylum.
The unaccompanied children: worrying about their future!
Child of War looking for a piece of land to learn how to walk, sadly singing poetically the songs of Cyril Mokaïesh and Bernard Lavilliers (in French). 1200 children would currently live in the Calais Camp and for some of them the direction is the United-Kingdom. The unaccompanied children profiting from family reunification should be soon received on the British soil. In a tribune to The Guardian, the French Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, seemed to be moved by their fate and urged the British government to intensify its efforts.
However, the Le Touquet agreements allowing British border checkpoints before departures to the United-Kingdom remain. The French government, which hoped that the United-Kingdom would accept to receive the young migrants, do not have any guarantee about their future. Regarding the remaining unaccompanied children, they should be sent in specialised shelters, but the places seem to be missing.
Security, Human rights and Presidential elections
In keeping with tradition, the first argument raised by the Government is the security. It must be recognised that the situation has become more and more difficult to manage. One of the most shocking events of these last days is probably the sexual assault against a translator near the camp. The incident has rekindled the climate of insecurity and, at the same time, given arguments to the extremist political parties.
More importantly, every night, migrants try to stop traffic on the motorway in order to get into trucks and join the United Kingdom. Loss of many lives has been reported. It is, however, hard to believe that the governmental operation could stop this problem. Those who want to cross the border will certainly leave the camp in view of the dismantling and will hide around the area in order to continue to take their chance at the risk of their life.
Besides, on the 1st of November, it is the beginning of the winter break. In other words, no way to expel people from their housing, and this rule runs also for the Calais Jungle. Thus, the Government need to proceed quickly, very quickly, or it risks having to cope with administrative contentious blocking the operation of dismantling.
Second argument made by the authorities is that the life conditions are considered as inhuman in the Calais camp. The French Government claims a humanitarian action rather than an expulsion in due form. But, with Presidential elections approaching in May 2017, it is the new political issue. Hence, hard not to link the recent decision about Calais camp and the political ambitions of a government increasingly decried by its electors. It becomes urgent to clear the deck and bring the order back to Calais. Besides, the government continues to remain fuzzy regarding the future of the centres built in Calais in order to welcome vulnerable ones. “This seems to be a demonstration of force before the presidential elections”, worries an official of Emmaus-France, fearing that these centres will be destroyed, a little like nothing has ever happened.
The United Kingdom: a promised land?
According to the government, 80% of Calais migrants do not wish to go into the United-Kingdom. However, no real diagnosis of the situation has been done. Thus, it is difficult to know what are their true wills.
Besides, on Tuesday 18th October, French justice rejected the request of 11 charities contesting the modalities of expulsion planned by the government. According to the French justice, “the public authorities do not have to take into account the choice by the migrants of their State or their place of residence.”. Conversely, the charities believe, above all, that the choice of the people is at the very heart of the decision-making system. Indeed, this is a given, the dismantling of the Calais camp will not prevent people from wishing to cross the border.