At least 300 migrant camps dismantled in northern France in 2019

Hundreds of police operations have been launched in 2019 to clear makeshift refugee camps in northern France, said charity workers.

Volunteers from Human Rights Observer, Utopia 56 and Auberge des Migrants say an average of two dismantlement are recorded every day in the northern French city of Calais. Photos posted by the organisations’ Twitter and Facebook pages show destroyed tents and scattered belongings that migrants left behind while fleeing law enforcement officers.

“It’s been happening with the same frequency, at the same time of day for several months,” said Charlotte, a volunteer at Utopia 56. “It’s discouraging. Migrants prepare for it every day. At around 7 am, when the police arrive, the migrants are set to go. They wake up early to pick up and sort their things, put away their sleeping bags.”

“I left my country looking for safety, but here I face police abuse…The police come every day to take my tent and clothes,” an Iranian man told Amnesty International.

According to Utopia 56 and Auberge des Migrants, at least 300 camps have been dismantled this year. Each migrant camp is usually occupied by about 25 to 100 migrants.

In addition to the poor living conditions, “migrants are exhausted. They don’t sleep much… they are very anxious,” said Charlotte. The volunteer added that many refuse to go to the emergency shelters, fearing their administrative situation will be assessed. Instead, they prefer to stay in the woods and not far from the areas that smuggling networks operate.

Lives of irregular migrants in France is further complicated by “police harassing, intimidating and even using violence against people helping,” said Amnesty International. In a new report, Targeting solidarity: Criminalization and harassment of people defending migrant and refugee rights in northern France, released in June 2019, the human rights agency reported that authorities have obstructed, intimidated, and harassed aid workers.

“Providing food to the hungry and warmth to the homeless have become increasingly risky activities in northern France, as the authorities regularly target people offering help to migrants and refugees,” said Lisa Maracani, Amnesty International’s Human Rights Defenders Researcher. “Migrants and refugees did not simply disappear with the demolition of the ‘Jungle’ camp in 2016 and more than a thousand men, women and children are still living precarious lives in the area.”

Amnesty International estimates that more than 1,200 migrants including unaccompanied children, live in tents and informal camps around Calais and Grand-Synthe.

TMP – 21/06/2019

Photo Credit: HUANG Zheng / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Workers begin dismantle the Jungle of Calais during the eviction of the illegal refugee camp in the north of France