Délégationdu Pas-de-Calais

Interview with Bernard Thibaud, General Secretary of Secours Catholique

On October 26, organisations Secours Catholique-Caritas France and Médecins du Monde together with petitioners from Sudan, Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, have started proceedings for interim relief before the Administrative Court of Lille. Their request is based on the violation of several fundamental rights of the migrants living in the slum.
Interview with Bernard Thibaud, General Secretary of Secours Catholique.

Bernard Thibaud, General Secretary of Secours Catholique-Caritas France

Why did Secours Catholique decide to sue ?

Interim relief (a legal recourse for people whose fundamental freedoms have been violated) is justified in cases of emergency and when the administration has committed serious violations of fundamental freedoms. Today we consider it an emergency to intervene regarding the tragic situation of the 6,000 migrants living in the Calais slum – (especially as winter comes) and the many serious human rights violations and deprivation of fundamental freedoms towards these men, women and children living in the slum.

Why undertake this judiciary action now ?

First of all, it’s been years that we have been challenging the different Ministers of the Interior on the issue of Calais, we have tried discussing, negotiating, co-building. And we have been constantly faced with a double discourse between the politicians and the government with rhetoric supposedly of “humanity” but also of “firmness”.

Bernard Cazeneuve (Interior Minister) makes regular announcements. Each time, we want to believe it, we engage in dialogue with the authorities, we negotiate. In the end, it continues to lead to hugely unsatisfactory solutions, far below what is necessary to end these human rights violations towards thousands of people. On September 19th, we went on a demonstration, English and French concerned citizens, together with migrants in Calais as a show of our solidarity. Then, the following Monday morning, we witnessed the brutal evacuation of Syrian families from some of the camps in Calais.

We end up not believing in their promises. Even when there are actual concessions, they don’t go near far enough. The government has proposed a plan to provide shelter for 1,500 people when there are 6,000 migrants. They are offering to have this plan in place early in 2016 when it is needed now, within three weeks. We must act faster, harder, further.

And we cannot see any will on the part of the government to end these serious human rights abuses once and for all. Instead, there was recently an extremely alarming report from the independent agency “Defender of Rights”, about the rights of the people in Calais. And on our side, our experience on the ground has been a rapid deterioration of the living conditions in the slum since this summer.

We decided : “That’s enough ! If politicians will not fulfil their responsibilities in respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, we will put the issue in the hands of the Courts to set the criteria so they will not be able to evade it.”

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