Breakup of the Calais Refugee Camps

By: Andrew Wenker

The first refugee camp in Calais was opened in 1999.[1] Following its closure in 2001 and 2002, migrants and refugees have continued to live in camps near the port.[2] Calais is a popular camp for refugees and migrants because of the close proximity to the United Kingdom (“UK”).[3] The camp is only an hour and a half from the British port city of Dover.[4] People want to live in the UK for various reasons.[5] Those include having family already there, a legal right under the UK’s laws to bring their families over to join them, the language and other reasons as well.[6] Furthermore, people are not able to apply for asylum outside of the UK, so they must physically be within the UK to seek asylum there.[7] Many refugees do not want to stay in France because of stricter asylum laws and language barriers.[8]

Other French politicians have discussed finding a better solution than the supposed temporary refugee camps in Calais since the 1990’s.[9] However, nothing has happened until this year.[10] Beginning in October of 2016, France began a mass evacuation of the Calais refugee camp known as “the jungle”.[11] The jungle was home to migrants from Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and other places as well.[12] French authorities were sending most of the migrants to other camps around the country.[13] At the time the camp was emptied, the Help Refugees charity claimed the population of the camp was 8,143.[14]

French officials have called destroying the camp a “humanitarian operation” due to the slum-like conditions and lawlessness of the camp.[15] Even if the removal of the camp was done through good intentions, the process has not gone as smoothly as hoped. Many people have refused to leave and are squatting near Calais.[16] Some children have reported that following removal of the camp, they had not been given clean clothes, they do not feel safe and that they even felt better at the camp in Calais.[17] At least three boys have been forced to work on farms picking fruit.[18] Others have said that they were “living with adults in children’s accommodation”.[19] Additionally, about a third of the children in the camp may have gone missing following the closure of the camp.[20] Concerns exist that human traffickers will prey upon the children.[21] Moreover, the children are unlikely to seek support from government officials because of their treatment thus far.[22]

Human rights violations in connection to the Calais camp demolition are not surprising considering that French authorities denied access to lawyers who attempted to observe the rights of refugees during the actual demolition of the Calais jungle.[23] Only journalists and government agencies were given access to the jungle during demolition.[24] “Human rights campaigners and international lawyers have said the decision to block legal observers from entering the camp constituted a ‘serious breach human rights’, by denying refugees access to legal advice during a time in which legal access may be incredibly important.[25]

A month after the removal of the refugees, the Calais camp is now completely empty.[26] What was once the temporary home to thousands of people is now just a barren muddy field.[27] “Displaced refugees are now being temporarily held at one of more than 160 Welcome and Orientation Centres (CAOs) across France until they can be relocated.”[28]

[1] Why is there a crisis in Calais?, BBC News (Oct. 3, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29074736.

[2] Id.

[3] George Bowden, Why Do Calais Migrants Want To Come To Britain? And Why Don’t Refugees Stay In France? Huffington Post (Oct. 24, 2016), http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/why-do-calais-migrants-want-to-come-to-britain-and-why-dont-refugees-stay-in-france_uk_580e0fade4b0fce107d15dfa.

[4] Sophia Slater ‘The Jungle is Finished’ in Calais: What happens to Refugees Now? Newsweek (Oct. 29, 2016), http://www.newsweek.com/jungle-finished-calais-what-happens-refugee-514956.

[5] George Bowden, Why Do Calais Migrants Want To Come To Britain? And Why Don’t Refugees Stay In France? Huffington Post (Oct. 24, 2016), http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/why-do-calais-migrants-want-to-come-to-britain-and-why-dont-refugees-stay-in-france_uk_580e0fade4b0fce107d15dfa.

[6] Id.

[7] The Asylum Process Made Simple, Asylum Aid, http://www.asylumaid.org.uk/the-asylum-process-made-simple/ (last visited Nov. 29, 2016).

[8] Id.

[9] Sophia Slater ‘The Jungle is Finished’ in Calais: What happens to Refugees Now? Newsweek (Oct. 29, 2016), http://www.newsweek.com/jungle-finished-calais-what-happens-refugee-514956.

[10] Id.

[11] France moving 6,500 migrants, destroying ‘the jungle’ camp in Calais, Chicago Tribune (Oct. 24, 2016), http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-france-migrant-camp-calais-20161024-story.html.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Kirstie McCrum, Chaotic Calais Jungle now a barren desert one month after authorities removed thousands of migrants, Mirror (Nov. 24, 2016), http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/chaotic-calais-jungle-now-barren-9324086.

[15] Christina Clark, The Refugee Crisis And Our Conscience: A Jungle Volunteer On France’s Human Rights Violations, Forbes (Nov. 22, 2016), http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2016/11/22/the-refugee-crisis-and-our-conscience-a-jungle-volunteer-on-frances-human-rights-violations/#35aa3eb86f9a.

[16] Id.

[17] Refugee children from Calais camp forced to work on farms in France, RT (Nov. 20, 2016), https://www.rt.com/news/367565-calais-children-work-farms/.

[18]  Id.

[19] Id.

[20] 1 in 3 refugee kids vanished after Calais ‘Jungle’ camp demolition, RT (Nov. 24, 2016), https://www.rt.com/news/367995-calais-refugee-children-missing/.

[21] Harriet Agerholm, Almost one in three Calais child refugees missing since Jungle camp demolition, Independent (Nov. 23, 2016), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/calais-jungle-camp-child-refugees-missing-demolition-youth-service-migrants-uk-a7435771.html.

[22] Id.

[23] May Bulman, Human rights lawyers blocked from entering Calais jungle during demolition under State of Emergency ban, Independent (Oct. 30, 2016), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/human-rights-lawyers-blocked-calais-jungle-demolition-refugees-state-emergency-french-authorities-a7386031.html.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Kirstie McCrum, Chaotic Calais Jungle now a barren desert one month after authorities removed thousands of migrants, Mirror (Nov. 24, 2016), http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/chaotic-calais-jungle-now-barren-9324086.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

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