Calais Statement – Our concerns

Last Friday, 12th Feb, the Calais Prefecture announced they would bulldoze the entire Southern section of the camp in Calais. They stated that there were 800-1000 refugees living in that zone that was to be evacuated.

Since then our team on the ground in Calais has been working tirelessly with the communities in the camp to identify the best ways to help an already vulnerable population as they are displaced once more. We estimate that there are over 3000 people living in the affected area, of which 400 children, 300 of whom are unaccompanied. We will be able to give you more information on this in the coming days. We expect the French authorities to post an eviction notice in the coming days, giving 24 hours or the bulldozing to commence. Our team are doing their best to prepare for every eventuality in the meantime so that we can be in the best position possible to support the residents of the camp during this distressing time.

Many of you have been asking what the objections are to the impending eviction and the relocation of refugees to the Containers, COA’s (Accommodation and Orientation centers) and CADA (Asylum Seekers’ hosting centres), so we’d like to take this opportunity to respond to these questions.

Whilst Help Refugees commends any move by the authorities to provide better living conditions to refugees in the makeshift camps, we have serious concerns about this move for the following reasons.

1. The area to be cleared is shown in red below. The French authorities have estimated this represents 800-1000 residents. The Shipping Containers accommodate 1500 people in total and there are only 461 available places left. At the moment only 50 people per day are able to move into the containers. At that rate only 350 people (of the 3000+ in the affected area) could be accommodated in the next week (when we understand the forced eviction is likely to take place) leaving a huge number without the option to move into the containers.

2. The CAO/CADA accommodation includes a variety of accommodation options such as caravan parks and disused holiday centres in 92 different locations around France. It is unclear how long this accommodation will be available.
There is currently a maximum capacity of 60 people per day who can be taken to these facilities. At this rate only 420 could be accommodated within the next week and it unclear if there would be enough spaces for all of the people living in the affected area, since the authorities’ population estimation appears considerably lower than that of our long-term volunteers who work in the camp every day.

3. Asking so many people to move in such a short space of time is not logistically viable, and not possible to do so in a way that maintains dignity for the refugees themselves.

4. A large scale move/eviction such as the one proposed needs to be handled with care and consideration, to avoid any unnecessary stress and harm to vulnerable people in the camp, including those suffering trauma, already displaced from their homes and cultures, and the hundreds of unaccompanied children.

5. Under Dublin III unaccompanied children have the legal right to be reunited with their nuclear families in the UK. There are believed to be hundreds of children in the camp to who are receiving legal assistance to make this possible but there is now a genuine concern that in the confusion of this hasty eviction these children will be lost in the system.

6. Essential services that volunteer organisations currently provide are set to be destroyed. These include:

Hands vaccination clinic, responsible for thousands of life-saving vaccinations, including most recently 3,159 flu vaccinations, and over 1,000 measles vaccinations, which helped prevent a deadly outbreak.

Hummingbird Clinic, a medical clinic open on the weekends when MSF do not operate.

The Women & Children’s Centre, offering pastoral care and psychological support to vulnerable women, children, and unaccompanied youths. Currently Jules Ferry (the Government run women and children’s centre accommodating approx. 500) have not given us any assurances that they will change their former policy, and start to care for all unaccompanied minors, as the Women & Children’s Centre currently do.

Mental Health Centre, offering essential psychological support and referrals.

Distribution centres for aid: our current understanding is that the new container area will not be providing any distributed aid, such as clothes, shoes etc. Help Refugees & L’Auberge Des Migrants will be allowed to continue to distribute aid, but have to date not been given any proper details of replacement of distribution centres to allow us to continue this work.

Distribution points for food and community cooking facilities. Currently 1000 hot meals are provided daily by Refugee Kitchens and food supplies are given to over 6000 weekly by Calais Kitchens in order to prepare their own meals in community cooking facilities according to their own tastes. The containers provide no cooking facilities do not offer 3 meals a day.

Alongside these essential humanitarian services multiple community kitchens will also be destroyed (including Ashram where they currently serve thousands of meals a day) as well as the Good Chance Theatre. These spaces contribute to a sense of normality, community and psychological well-being for many of the camp residents.

During the course of a meeting with key associations on the ground on Monday, the sous-prefect, Xavier Czerwinski, told our representatives that there was no intention to destroy any of the schools, the church or the three mosques located in the area to be demolished. This was also an assurance made during the previous eviction/land clearance but it was not upheld. We hope that on this occasion that promise will be honoured.

We welcome any further information or communication from the authorities.

We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Many of the refugees we help are fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Others are trying to escape political oppression in countries like Eritrea. All are human beings like us. As well as providing immediate physical assistance, we want to help refugees maintain their dignity.

Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work in Calais, Dunkirk, Lesvos, Samos, Idomeni and other locations. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!