October 27, 2015
In spite of many requests submitted by our associations and the detailed recommendations of the Defender of Rights, the Minister of the Interior has announced measures that still fall far short of what is necessary to tackle the problems posed by the thousands of refugees in Calais.
The government’s interdepartmental medical mission has recommended urgent action to cope with the sanitary emergency at Calais but the actions that the government proposes to take and the time within which they will be implemented remain unclear while the health needs are obvious and require an urgent response.
As well as welcome plans to protect women and children, the Minister plans to create ‘centres of shelter’ but has not informed us of their location, what facilities will be provided for medical, social and judicial accompaniment, nor how they will be run. These plans had hardly been announced when we learned that dozens of people were being detained against their will in centres throughout France. These ridiculous measures recall the way in which the ‘jungle’ was destroyed in 2009 and raise doubts about the ‘centres of shelter’ supposed to create links of confidence and make accessible the fundamental rights of refugees.
These latest developments – justified by repeated appeals to a balance between ‘firmness and humanity’ – show the true face of public policy in Calais over the last two years : an indecisiveness – really a permanent state of improvisation – with regards to the political choices to be made which leads in the end to inadequate responses which leave thousands of people in the greatest state of necessity. What does the government want ? A global response respecting the rights and dignity of the individual or a state of denial and its corollary, a resort to force and brutality ?
Emergency measures must be taken, as recommended by the Defender of Rights, to respond without conditions and without delay to the vital essential needs of all these refugee women, men and children ! Having for years been alongside the thousands of refugees who live daily with this chaos made worse by the indecision of the local and national authorities, Secours Catholique and Médecins du Monde have decided to take legal action.
On 26 October, on behalf of refugees from Sudan, Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, our two associations started proceedings before the administrative tribunal of Lille.
They base their action on the violation of several fundamental human rights : the right to respect of life, the right to human dignity, the right not to suffer degrading or inhumane treatment, the right to asylum.
They request the judge of the tribunal to rule that the administration take measures as a matter of urgency to respond without conditions and without delay to the essential and vital needs of all these women, men and children.
Above and beyond the the immediate sanitary and social response, what is required is complete re-examination of public policy. Our associations assert :
It is time to abandon the policy of ‘ghettoisation’ and of concentrating all the refugees in the same place, as was imposed on the Mayor of Calais a year ago.
It is time to demand firmly of Great Britain a renegotiation of the conditions of access to Britain by refugees who wish to go there. The present inaction of the government of France is incomprehensible.
It is time to put in place, without delay, a national and European plan for the welcome of refugees adequate for the present situation and its challenges.