Wow! That was fast. Not even a week has passed since the European Union was turned on its head by a stunning victory for immigration control candidates in EU parliamentary elections.
RRW (h/t Susan K) If you don’t know about Calais, see more by clicking here. Like migrating birds, the faux asylum seekers were looking for a better deal in the UK and thus were camped at the English channel crossing just waiting for the winds to change (an opportunity to arise) so they could slip into Great Britain where the welfare is reportedly top notch. Legitimate asylum seekers would have applied for asylum in the first safe country they reached.
Reuters French riot police started evacuating three campsites housing hundreds of immigrants in the northern port town of Calais on Wednesday, days after the anti-immigrant National Front party hammered the ruling Socialists in a European election.
Calais has for years attracted floods of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan and Iraq, many of them hoping to cross the narrow sea channel to Britain by ferry or the sub-sea train tunnel.
“This is sad, and it changes nothing,” said Jalal, an Iraqi in his 20s who watched as police moved in. “I’ll move my tent somewhere else … but I am staying put (in Calais). What else can I do. I will try again to make the crossing. I did not come here just to give up now.” “I’m going to try to cross [to England] again. I’ve not come all this way here to give up now.” (England gives out better free stuff)
Many of the estimated 600-800 immigrants living in the three camps had moved out before the well-publicized evacuation ordered by Denis Robin, prefect for the Pas-de-Calais region. The operation came on the heels of the European Parliament elections, where the National Front took one in four votes to come first ahead of the mainstream centre-right opposition party and, in third place, the ruling Socialist Party.
Pas-de-Calais lies in north-west France where the FN won 34 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election, one of its best tallies and a tripling of its score from the 2009 EU election. The FN has long campaigned for a dramatic reduction in immigration and opposes the “Schengen” borderless zone at the heart of the 28-member European Union.
The Guardian French authorities have bulldozed three makeshift migrant camps that had been sheltering hundreds of refugees at the port of Calais, citing health concerns following an outbreak of scabies and increasing violence. The authorities claimed the areas needed clearing because of “deplorable hygiene” conditions.
There were also complaints from local people and officials that the number of migrants in the port area and “at the mercy of people smugglers” offering to take them to Britain had doubled in the past few weeks. However, there was no indication of where the hundreds of migrants, many of whom have fled conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, could or would go. (How about back where they came from?)
The French authorities had organised a fleet of buses to take the migrants to a centre where they could shower and be given new clothes, but most refused fearing they would be taken far from Calais.
Aid organisations said dozens of migrants, warned of the impending police operation, had made last-ditch attempts to cross the Channel. Border police reported groups of 30 to 40 people hiding in shrubs along roads leading into the port. Some were attempting to jump on lorries as they slowed down.
A young Sudanese migrant was killed on Friday after trying to conceal himself near the axle of a coach that had stopped in a supermarket car park. “As if the situation isn’t tragic enough, it is intolerable that once again these expulsions are being carried out without any alternative being proposed,” said Jean-Claude Lenoir, president of Salam, which has been offering meals to the migrants.
Humanitarian organisations distributed tents to some of the migrants and lambasted the authorities for “a show operation that solves nothing”. In a letter to the prime minister, Manuel Valls, and other ministers 10 humanitarian groups, including Médecins du Monde (MDM)and the Secours Catholique, attacked the authorities for failing to address the Calais camp problem.
“The situation in Calais is deteriorating in a deafening silence. Despite having repeatedly warned the public powers of the threat to public health that this situation is causing, no proper response has yet been proposed,” they wrote.
Jean-François Corty, of MDM, said it was impossible to treat the scabies outbreak and at the same time dismantle the camps, leaving the affected migrants with nowhere to go. “I am scandalised and furious,” he told journalists at the scene, adding that the forced evacuation, like previous operations, would change nothing. “They evacuate and everything starts over again. A few months, years after the evacuation, everything is the same,” he said.
The clearing of the camps came just days after France’s anti-immigration Front National won the north-west constituency in the European elections. FN president Marine Le Pen, who stood for election in the region, scored 34% of the vote, tripling the party’s 2009 European election score.
Between 800 and 850 migrants were believed to be in the Calais area, while up to 650 were in the city’s port area hoping to reach Britain. The notorious camp at Sangatte known as the “jungle”, which held up to 2,000 refugees all hoping to cross the Channel, was closed in a joint agreement between Britain and France in 2002.
“Given the larger and larger concentration of squats in the public port area, given the increasing violence between the [smugglers’] networks and the health problems, we have no choice but to act in the interest of public order,” he told French television.