Last week, six camps with some 300 migrants were dismantled in Calais in a single day. No alternative shelter was provided while temperatures fell just below 3 degrees Celcius. The move has been condemned by eight aid organizations active in northern France.
On Tuesday, April 6, "six large-scale eviction operations took place in Calais" between 3 and 6 pm "without the provision of any alternative shelter," noted a press release co-written by eight migrant aid organizations including Human Rights Observers (HRO), the Migrants' Hostel and Utopia 56.
Nearly 300 migrants were evicted from their makeshift camps "while temperatures fell to 3 degrees" in northern France on Tuesday, say the humanitarian organizations.
"At least 126 tents, 170 tarpaulins and 77 blankets" were taken by the police.
The organizations also complained that the official cold weather plan has not been activated by the authorities "leaving [the migrants] without any protection against hail and snow."
Furthermore, due to the unusual timing of these evictions -- in the afternoon and not in the morning, as is usually the case -- many migrants did not have time to secure and retrieve their belongings, identity documents, medicines, telephones or money before their tents were removed.
'Misuse of the law'
The groups also condemned a "misuse of the law in Calais", via an "abusive" use of the criminal system -- which allows an evacuation of the camp without needing to be announced beforehand.
One of the plots of land concerned, occupied by Eritreans, had been the subject of an application for interim measures by the Calais town hall, which demanded its evacuation. But the court rejected this application on March 26, considering that the town hall had not provided proof of a risk to public health or safety.
The authorities "did not succeed by the big door but they did succeed by the small one," lamented Margot Sifre, jurist in the legal Cabane, also a signatory of the communiqué, speaking with AFP. According to her, a "big eviction, covered by a request, takes place roughly every 20 days" in Calais, in addition to smaller ones every 48 hours.
Contacted by AFP, the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais confirmed that these operations were carried out "on the legal basis of the illegal installation of camps on public or private land." These dismantling operations are organized in order to "avoid the re-establishment of unsanitary camps which would become shanty towns in a short time," claim the authorities.
The prefecture also stated that, every working day, a bus is available to take migrants to two reception and assessment centers (CAES) in the department, "allowing them access to shelter in dignified conditions." These centers are considered by the aid organizations to be unsuitable for migrants who do not want to or are unable to apply for asylum in France.