Mr Bernard Cazeneuve
Paris, February 18, 2016
Mrs the prefect of Pas-de-Calais announced the decision to raze to the ground half and probably all of the “jungle” in Calais in the coming days. We are aware of the rising tensions on this subject in the Calais area and of the violent reactions aroused by this situation. However, we regret to inform you of our profound opposition to this project which is not accompanied, to date, of genuine alternatives. It will only add more tension to the already tense situation and render even more vulnerable the thousands of asylum seekers that neither France nor Britain are capable of hosting properly. Not to mention the disastrous effect that it is sure to produce in France and abroad.
The asylum seekers settled in that wasteland less than a year ago, at the request, or rather under constraint by the police. In March 2015, under your leadership and that of the mayor of Calais, the government forced the asylum seekers then spread out through different camps or squats to settle in this wasteland, then devoid of any equipment, with the reiterated commitment from representatives of the state that they would not be dislodged by force.
Less than a year later, this promise has already been broken.
Living conditions – or survival conditions – are particularly difficult in the “jungle”, and in no way would we want to maintain these degrading conditions. But it is clear that this slum has grown to its present size due to the authorities’ inability to provide answers that match the gravity of the situation. The alternatives that the prefect considers sufficient to justify the dismantling of the “jungle” are far, far away from meeting the needs and facing the problems. Hence a brutal evacuation would cause reconstructions of camps including the one in Grande-Synthe.
The prefect refers to the 1500 places at the temporary reception centre (CAP). Even though we appreciate the direct intervention of the state in this setup, we can only note that it is still largely under-sized, and that improvements are still sorely needed in regards to the respect of individuals’ privacy and living conditions on the site. If the existing dwellings disappear in the “jungle”, it is likely that many asylum seekers will refuse to accept the space forced on them at the CAP.
Mrs. Buccio also mentions the CAOs (reception and orientation centres). The availability of spaces such as the creation of the “respite centres” were an interesting innovation. But their implementation is carried out in such an add-hoc manner that they are not able to meet their objective today : absence of a national steering committee, inexistent or fumbling levels of coordination between local public services, locally elected officials, operators and associations, lack of communication between the players in Calais and the various CAOs opened in the country, lack of assessment of sanitary and social issues and lack of taking into account of the needs of the asylum seekers before their orientation towards the CAOs, lack of information or misinformation for the asylum seekers on the functioning of the CAOs, fostering failure and returns to the wasteland, low level of implementation of the possibility of admission in Britain, orientation of unaccompanied minors, etc. The purpose of the CAO was not only to shelter the asylum seekers, but to offer them the opportunity to receive trustworthy information before deciding to seek asylum in France, accepting a readmission in another EU country, or establishing that they have valid reasons for wanting to go to the UK, however the current lack of organisation and the lack of resources deployed render this objective illusory. The CAOs are a good idea, which through inadequate implementation, is unable to answer the questions of the asylum seekers who would be willing to reconsider their plans.
Added to this, is the question which is at the root of Calaisien phenomenon : the old agreements that oblige France to take on the role of the borderguard for Britain. Without a comprehensive and transparent renegotiation of the conditions in which France and the United Kingdom divide the responsibility of reception of the asylum seekers, the phenomenon seen in Calais for years will only continue. This renegotiation is urgently needed, and many of our movements are consulting their British partners to urge their elected officials to support this perspective. Meanwhile, we note with regret that government agencies have not done enough to conduct a census and review situations that will allow the referral to the British authorities of the asylum seekers who have relatives there and who can use existing legal channels. After the decision of the State Council, the few interims filed recently for unaccompanied minors in Calais have shown the obvious failures of the Government, including towards the most vulnerable.
The announcement of the dismantling of the “jungle” in the coming days seems unacceptable in these conditions. Without an assessment of the health and social needs of the asylum seekers before their referral to the centres where the quality of their support will be evaluated, particularly through a mechanism of concerted coordination between the players, without quantitative and qualitative improvements in the CAP reception centres along the coastline, without a commitment with appropriate measures and procedures to allow the admission in Britain to all who have relatives there, the dismantling of the “jungle” will only cause new serious violations of human rights.
In the current state of lack of serious alternatives, you understand that we ask you to postpone the evacuation, and we will be determined, if that were to happen, to oppose it.
Please accept, Sir, the assurances of our highest consideration,
Véronique Fayet, Président of Secours Catholique-Caritas France
Guy Aurenche, Président of CCFD-Terre Solidaire
Geneviève Jacques, Président of La Cimade
Thierry Khun, Président of Emmaüs France
Louis Gallois, Président of FNARS
Claire Hédon, Président of ATD Quart Monde
Françoise Sivignon, Président of Médecins du Monde
Rachid Lahlou, Président of Secours Islamique France