CALAIS STATEMENT BY HELP REFUGEES - DESTRUCTION BEGINS
February 29th 2016
Today in the Calais camp hundreds of riot police were present, carrying guns and detonating tear gas canisters which affected men, women, children (and BBC journalists), some which caused fires to start all across camp.
Many refugees who had come to France to escape genuine war zones lost their belongings and homes again today.
The morning began with 55 CRS vans pulling up and unloading hundreds of riot police. Bulldozers and water cannons were lined up outside camp and teams from the Prefecture began to systematically destroy shelters using mallets and chainsaws.
The police formed a human shield preventing refugees from collecting their valuables and used tear gas to repeatedly drive back residents as they dismantled occupied and unoccupied homes. More tear gas was used to force additional residents to evacuate their homes and the structures were then torn down preventing them from being able to gather their personal affairs.
Our teams on the ground spent their time grabbing fire extinguishers to contain the burning shelters and washing the eyes of children caught in the tear gas, as well as trying to hand emergency supplies to refugees leaving the camp, many confused as to where to go.
It was confirmed in French court last week that despite Help Refugees census finding 3,455 people there are only 1156 alternative accommodation places currently available in Calais and throughout Frances, leaving a deficit of around 2,299
The French government have not since informed us that they have found more spaces, to accommodate the total number of people they are evicting from the Southern part of the camp.
In a press conference last week the Prefect assured journalists that the dismantling of the Southern section of the 'jungle' would be gradual, humane and respectful of 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 for 1) the dignity of refugees and 2) their security. The scenes of panic we witnessed today were a far cry from these principals.
The wellbeing of each and every one of the residents of the camp continues to be our main priority but of course, at this distressing time and as night falls we are especially concerned for the 423 unaccompanied children living in the Jungle.
In the course of the confusion and panic sweeping through the camp after the events of today we fear that these vulnerable young people will scatter leaving them without the basic primary care our network of volunteers gives them and adding them to the 10,000 child refugees already 'missing' in Europe according to Europol. Many of these children have family members is the UK.
We call on this situation in France to be declared an official humanitarian crisis so that experts can come to assist and that already traumatised people are offered responsible care rather than additional trauma.
We also call on the British and French governments to expedite the Dublin III process allowing those unaccompanied refugee children in Calais with immediate family in the UK to come to Britain to reunite with them.
HELP REFUGEES: CALAIS CAMP DEMOLITION UPDATE
Demolition continued in camp today. There were fires but no teargas during the day. CRS (riot) police arrived early in the morning to form a human shield between the main area of the camp and the section they are currently demolishing, mostly inhabited by Iranians and Sudanese.
Volunteers were not able to go beyond this blockade to help anyone move or to hear information being given by the Prefecture to the refugees affected. Dismantling of shelters continued, this time both manually and with bulldozers in full force. We estimate around 70 have been demolished over the past two days, affecting a population of 250-300.
Most of the occupants were able to pack a few things and move to other parts of the camp.
Some wishing to peacefully protest sat on the roof of their shelters but one husband and wife were subjected to enforced police eviction and arrest.
This evening volunteers moved 50 caravans, all housing families to a safer area within the camp.
We are unable to clarify how many spaces are currently remaining in the containers but at the start of the day yesterday there were just 140 left and we know that many more individuals and families have now been moved in.
Some people are taking the option to be bused to Centres of Accommodation around France (there are two buses on standby daily but often leave half empty) but for the time being, most are either trying to temporarily move to the North of the camp, or they have begun seeking out alternative camps to head to.
The overall mood in camp was a feeling of sad resignation.-
STATEMENT BY CARE4CALAIS: Calais Jungle Violence
Tuesday March 1st 2014
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.
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.
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