France to offer evicted Calais migrants shelter, envoy says | DW | 02.11.2021
Migrants evicted from makeshift camps in the French city of Calais will be given a place to shelter rather than left to wander the streets, the head of France’s immigration office Didier Leschi said Tuesday.
“We will systematically offer (migrants) accommodation,” the envoy told the AFP news agency.
French authorities routinely tear down migrant tents in the northern port city, where hundreds of people are camping under bridges or in the forest as they wait for a chance to cross the English Channel to Britain.
Often they are given little warning and are forced to move on without a place to shelter.
‘No more surprise evictions’
Leschi told AFP that migrants would now be offered an alternative place to stay — not in Calais but elsewhere in the northern Hauts-de-France region.
He also said there would be “no more surprise evictions,” and that migrants would be given more time —”about 45 minutes” — to gather their possessions.
The announcement came amid a hunger strike by an elderly Calais priest over the way homeless foreigners are treated in the city.
Preventing another ‘Jungle’
Calais used to be home to a shantytown known as the “Jungle.” Up to 10,000 migrants lived there before police demolished it in 2016.
France’s government is keen to prevent another sprawling camp from popping up in its place.
An estimated 2,000 people, including at least 300 unaccompanied children, were staying in and around encampments in and around Calais in mid-2021, according to humanitarian groups.
HRW: French police guilty of ‘abusive practices’
In a report last month, Human Rights Watch accused French police of mistreating migrants by tearing down their tents, forcing them to wander the streets and confiscating their belongings.
“The authorities carry out these abusive practices with the primary purposes of forcing people to move elsewhere, without resolving their migration status or lack of housing, or of deterring new arrivals,” it said in the report.
Spike in Channel crossings
Migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa have long used northern France as a launching point to reach Britain, either by stowing away in trucks or in small boats organized by people traffickers.
Authorities say migrant camps should be cleared because they are a haven for smugglers who charge exorbitant prices for their services.
According to French coast guard statistics, a total of 15,400 people attempted to cross the Channel in the first eight months of this year, an increase of 50% in comparison with the figure for the whole of 2020.
nm/jsi (AFP, LUSA, AP)