Dear Prime Minister May,
Dear President Macron,
Copy to: Nicole Belloubet; Gérard Collomb; Gérald Darmanin; Amber Rudd; Paul Lincoln; Caroline
Re: Open letter in view of the Franco-British summit on Thursday 18 January 2018
On the occasion of the Franco-British Summit scheduled to take place this Thursday 18 January 2018, we are writing to ask that any new agreement relating to the French-British border bear in mind the human rights of displaced people currently residing in Calais. The Governments of France and Britain must uphold their existing commitments under international human rights law. Based on aid organisations such as l’Auberge des Migrants, Help Refugees, Safe Passage, Utopia56, Refugee Info Bus, the School Bus Project and Refugee Youth Service’s in-depth knowledge of the situation on the ground, combined with Refugee Rights Data Project’s (RRDP) independent field research throughout 2016-2017, we are deeply concerned that the human rights of refugees and displaced people in northern France are being systematically violated on French territory. We moreover lament the heightened risk of sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking to which children and youth in Calais are exposed, as well as the many avoidable deaths occurring at the border. Since December 2017 alone, three individuals have died a preventable death at the border, including a 15- year old boy who had a legal right to be reunited with family in the UK. We therefore call on the French and British Governments to ensure that the following considerations are held central in any negotiations on Le Touquet agreement and future arrangements relating to the France-UK border:-
- Police violence: In any discussion between the British and French Governments on security and border control, the issue of police violence and detention must be carefully addressed. Both Governments must work to put an end to police violence and abuse against displaced people, and those officers responsible for abuse must be held to account. Police must be adequately trained and made aware of the prohibition of disproportionate and indiscriminate
use of force.
- Safe legal routes: Both France and Britain must ensure that displaced people in the area are able to access family reunification processes under the Dublin Regulation. The Dublin Regulation processes should be actioned and completed in a timely fashion to reduce the risk to young people taking unnecessary risks. Specific attention should be given to ensure that minors are able to access family reunification and safe, legal routes such as the ‘Dubs’ scheme. To date, there are still over 200 placements available for unaccompanied minors to be transferred to safety in the UK. The average waiting time observed by organisations on the ground (such as Safe Passage, an organisation with expertise helping children access family reunion) currently amounts to 9 months, which is wholly disproportionate and unnecessary.
- Reception centres: Adequate reception centres must be open whilst claims are being processed, and as emergency accommodation for the duration of winter. Displaced people in the area must not be left in the current inadequate conditions and the cold weather.
- Child protection: Child protection frameworks and anti-trafficking efforts must be given high priority to counter the heightened risks of sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking to which children and youth in Calais are exposed. Unaccompanied children on French soil must be given full access to shelter, mental and physical health services, and other basic services such as access to food, water and sanitation. A proportion of the £80 million budget under the latest security agreement 4 must be urgently allocated to the aforementioned efforts.
We would like to conclude by bringing you the voices from the ground. A 15-year-old boy recently died at the border in Calais. He had family in the UK and a legal right to be here, and the authorities had been notified of his vulnerability and situation. He died crushed by a lorry on the motorway at the border hoping to be reunited with his brother in Britain. He was the fifth child in the last two years to have died at the Calais border with a legal right to be with family in Britain.
His friend, who witnessed his death, explains what happened that night: “That night neither of us much wanted to walk to the motorway – we were exhausted. But it was cold in the woods where we were sleeping so we decided to try again”.
Many thanks for your attention.