France Will Not Allow Another Refugee Camp in Calais, Says Macron
Emmanuel Macron has vowed there will never be another large refugee camp in Calais and warned those people remaining in the area who hope to reach Britain that they are at a “dead end”, according to the Guardian.
The French president also accused certain organisations of lying about police brutality and encouraging people to remain in Calais and attempt the crossing to the United Kingdom.
Macron visited Calais two days before a meeting with Theresa May to discuss the handling of the migration crisis at the Channel port.
The Elysée had earlier briefed that the visit was intended to deliver a hard-hitting message, that “the border is closed and Calais can no longer be a destination for migrants”.
France has already warned it may seek an overhaul of the 2003 Le Touquet agreement that shifted British border controls to the French side, and will be demanding “a certain number of improvements” from London. The demands are expected to include more money for dealing with undocumented migrants and a request that Britain take in more unaccompanied children.
Macron travelled to Calais on Tuesday with his interior and justice ministers as well as the public accounts minister and government spokesman.
In an hour-long speech, he outlined his government’s “new policy” towards immigration and asylum, effectively a carrot-and-stick approach: shelter, assistance and integration for those entitled to remain in France; and a higher number of expulsions of those deemed to be in the country illegally.
“There will be no reconstruction of ‘the Jungle’ [the derogatory name given to the Calais camp] or tolerance of illegal settlements in or around Calais,” Macron repeated several times. “To stay in Calais and built makeshift shelters and even set up squats is a dead end. The alternative is clear; people can get to the reception centres where everyone’s case will be examined and those who have the right, given asylum in our country.”
He criticised unnamed humanitarian organisations for their “lies and manipulations” in “encouraging men and women to stay here and even to cross the Channel” and encouraging claims of violence by police and gendarmes.
But he also warned law enforcement officers their behaviour must be “exemplary” and reminded them that migrants were “people who have travelled continents; these men and women are human beings”.
“It’s a delicate mission and for it you must be exemplary and in absolute respect of professional ethics and absolute respect of the law. This means not waking people up in the middle of the night, not using teargas during mealtimes,” he said. Any excessive behaviour, he warned, would be “punished”.
Macron said police had foiled 115,000 attempts by migrants to cross the Channel last year, 52,000 more than the previous year.
The French leader began his speech at the Calais gendarmerie barracksby saying he would be raising issues regarding police cooperation and funding with May when they meet Thursday.
Before arriving in Calais, Macron flew by helicopter to a reception centre at Croisilles, 130km (80 miles) south-east of Calais, currently home to 63 men, mostly from Sudan and Afghanistan. Guillaume Alexandre, director general of La Vie Active that runs the centre, said a third of migrants who turned up disappeared before seeking asylum. “But in the three [reception centres] around Calais that we run the rate is almost 70%,” he added.
The French government is drawing up new immigration and asylum legislation to be discussed at the council of ministers – the EU’s main decision-making body – in February.
New laws will centre on five aims: controlling the flow of migrants and refugees, a better system to deal with asylum seekers, a speeding up of the asylum-seeking process, tightening laws to remove people who are in the country illegally and measures to help the integration of refugees.
France dealt with more than 100,000 asylum applications last year, a 17% increase on 2016. A further 85,000 people were reportedly stopped at French borders and refused entry to the country.
Since last September, France has set up reception centres for refugees and migrants. These are expected to be rolled out across the country in the coming months to offer shelter for 2,600 people, to add to the 80,000 places officials say already exist.
Hundreds of people are still living in and around Calais despite the fact that French police dismantled the “Jungle” camp, home to around 7,000 people, two years ago. The Elysée said its aim was to prevent the establishment of further camps.
Macron gave his speech in front of representatives from the 1,100-strong police and gendarmerie forces deployed at the Channel port to secure the border. Last October, human rights campaigners said police violence against migrants and refugees in Calais had reached “excessive and life-threatening” levels and expressed particular concern for unaccompanied children.
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