France uses a “deterrence policy” with migrants seeking to cross to the UK, exposing them to “daily humiliation and harassment”, as records show daily expulsions, tearing down of tents and confiscating belongings.
In northern France, in and around Calais and Grand-Saint, more than a thousand people still live in wooded areas, abandoned warehouses and under bridges, hoping to cross into the UK, where the French police carry out “periodic mass expulsions”, in addition to “routine operations”, thus forcing migrants to continuous movement, while the security forces confiscate the tents of migrants and often tear them down to make them unusable.
In 2021, the police carried out more than 1,050 “routine” expulsion in Calais and 100 in Grand Sainte, during which they confiscated 6,000 tents and tarpaulins, in addition to hundreds of blankets and sleeping bags.
“When the police arrive, we have five minutes to get out of the tent before they destroy everything,” said Rona, an Iraqi Kurdish refugee. When asked about her experience in December 2020, she added, “The police tore down the tarpaulin we were using as a roof for our dwelling and they sent us away.
“Sometimes they change where they distribute food and we don’t know where to go. We try to run,” says a 17-year-old Syrian refugee, but “by the time we arrive there, they’d be gone”.
While a Syrian father spoke about the suffering of his family when the police attack them, saying: They are worried that they will not be together again, the wife runs in one direction and the children run in another direction and he goes with his young child in a third direction, and they often wander away from each other for days, and he fears that a day will come where the family gets dispersed in exile without knowing the areas of their children.
These abusive practices are part of a more comprehensive policy of deterrence pursued by the French authorities, which aims to abolish or avoid everything that might, in its view, attract immigrants in northern France and encourage the establishment of camps.
Restrictions on humanitarian assistance, which came in recent decisions, prevent the distribution of food and water by some associations in the city center of Calais. Only aid distributions approved by the state are permitted.
We believe that nothing can justify people being subjected to daily humiliation and harassment. If the goal is to deter immigrants from coming to northern France, these policies are causing people painful suffering.