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Human Rights Watch says asylum seekers are living in desperate conditions in Calais

Date of Publication: 
20 December 2017

More than 500 migrants and asylum seekers face winter weather and ongoing police violence

Human Rights Watch says asylum seekers are living in desperate conditions in Calais

20 December 2017

Human Rights Watch earlier this week published an update on the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in Calais.

Over a year after the demolition of the Jungle camp, more than 500 migrants and asylum seekers (including an estimated 100 are unaccompanied children) are still living rough in and around the French port town, hoping to reach the UK.

Human Rights Watch describes current conditions as "desperate", with riot police continuing to confiscate or destroy asylum seekers' personal belongings, including sleeping bags and blankets.

Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch, said: "The ongoing police violence and destruction and confiscation of people's belongings is inhumane and unconscionable. The French authorities should immediately put an end to these abuses and ensure that migrants are treated with the dignity to which every human being is entitled."

Jeannerod said police abuse and harassment should not constitute a building block of France's policy toward migrants and asylum seekers.

Aid workers warned that asylum seekers faced frostbite and hypothermia in the winter weather on top of other physical and mental health issues caused by the precarious living conditions.

According to Human Rights Watch, Calais city officials opened nightly emergency accommodation on 11 December due to the increasingly cold weather, but only 270 places were available and some migrants and asylum seekers who did not travel on official buses were turned away.

Human Rights Watch called on authorities to keep emergency accommodation open for the duration of the winter and throughout the day as well as at night to ensure adequate protection for those who would otherwise be homeless.

Loan Torondel of the French humanitarian organisation Auberge des Migrants told Human Right Watch: "These acts represent a strategy of harassment and exhaustion on the part of the authorities, aimed at deterring the presence of migrants in Calais … Leaving vulnerable people with no shelter in this weather is causing them to become increasingly desperate."

Meanwhile, the British Red Cross reported this week that a seventeen-year-old Iraqi who arrived in the UK from the Jungle camp in Calais last year says he found 'humanity' in his new home.

"Arriving in the UK, I was born again," he said. "I couldn't be happier. There is a lot of badness in my country but in the UK there is humanity."

The British Red Cross says the teenager now lives in Birmingham with a fellow asylum-seeker he first met in Calais. Both boys are supported by the Surviving to Thriving project, a new partnership between the British Red Cross, the Refugee Council and UpRising.