The NGOs and Associations working in the Calais Jungle have taken legal action alongside the refugees living there to stop the evictions and bulldozing of the southern half of the camp. The hearing will take place at the court in Lille on Tuesday 23 February ay 2pm.
The action does not support the ‘Jungle’ as being a good solution; rather it states that viable alternatives should be on offer if the refuges are going to be evicted. The NGOs do not believe that either the container camp or the respite centres (CAOs) are suitable or adequate.
The NGOs have applied for an interim suspension order to stop the Calais prefecture issuing an eviction order on the southern half of the camp. This approach was taken because of fears that a 48 hour eviction notice would be issued on Friday night, when the courts would be shut for the following 48 hours, leaving no possibility of a legal challenge. The lawyer taking the case on behalf of the NGOs and the refugees is Julie Bonnier who has extensive experience of working on evictions in Roma slums.
The bases of the claim are that:
1) When the current camp was set up in March 2015, this was done following eviction orders on various small camps around the Calais area. At that time the then Calais prefecture promised the refugees that if they moved to this land they would be able to stay there with no threat of eviction.
2) When discussing the current proposed eviction the prefecture said there are approximately 800 to 1,000 people in the southern part of the Jungle. However, based on a population survey carried out by L’Auberge (a French charity working in the Jungle) the figure is actually over 3400. The census was done very rigorously and corroborated by other figures (distributed food, water consumed etc). This means that the French authorities suggestion of accommodating displaced people in the container camp and winter respite centres will be highly inadequate.
3) There have been various problems with the containers and respite centres which have been proposed by the French Authorities as alternative accommodation.
4) The claim also contains testimonials from thirty volunteers and NGOs who operate in the camp (library, school, health centre etc) that explain what they do and what facilities will be lost if the camp is destroyed.
The NGOs acting in the claim alongside the refugees are: Care4Calais / L’Auberge des Migrants / Help Refugees / Utopia 56 / Secours Catholique / Emmaus / Appel de Calais / Réveil Voyageur
Separately, in an open letter to Bernard Cazeneuve, the French Minister of the Interior, eight French charities including Emmaus, Medicines Du Monde and Secours Catholique, have condemned the decision by the French Authorities to bulldoze the southern half of the refugee camp in Calais known as the ‘Jungle’. The letter acknowledges that this action by the Authorities will probably also include the destruction of the other half of the camp over the coming weeks.
The charities point out that no viable alternative accommodation options have been offered for the refugees to move to, so they will effectively be rendered homeless.
It is also points out that when the current camp was established in March 2015, the refugees moving there from various small camps around the area were promised that, if they settled there, they would not be evicted. This promise is now being broken less than a year after it was made.
The letter notes that the 1500 places in the new container camp are severely insufficient for current numbers in the camp, and the container camp also lacks basic privacy and provides for little quality of life, being nothing more than a dormitory.
Although the government has suggested making extra space available in the winter respite centres (CAOs), the French charities note that these have to date been poorly implemented with no attention to health or social concerns, and there has been poor provision of information resulting in refugees returning from the centres to Calais.
The charities recommend a renegotiation of the way that the UK and France jointly manage the reception of refugees, in particular with regard to vulnerable persons.
The letter ends by saying that the demolition of the Jungle will only lead to further abuses of human rights and asks that, due to the lack of viable alternatives, the eviction is postponed.
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