migrants in Calais | Credit: Mehdi Chebil
migrants in Calais | Credit: Mehdi Chebil

Even though the 'Jungle' migrant camp in Calais was closed in October 2016, many migrants are still in the area, waiting for a chance to cross into the United Kingdom. Human Rights Watch had previously raised concerns about suspected abuse by French authorities. France said that migrant abuse by police was "plausible."

An internal investigation released by French security forces on Monday concludes that migrants in Calais, France were abused by police, according to the human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

"The investigation requested by the Interior Ministry confirms that police in Calais used excessive force and otherwise abuse migrants, including children," said Benedicte Jeannerod, France director of Human Rights Watch.

French authorities said allegations of abuse against migrants was "plausible," but reports of the use of pepper spray against migrants were unlikely as French police do not carry the chemical agent, according to dpa.

'We have to move'

Human Rights Watch says the investigation confirmed police used pepper spray on migrants and regularly confiscated or destroyed sleeping bags, blankets and clothing. Migrants in the area echoed similar incidents to journalists as well as to migrant advocacy and aid groups in the area.

"It's very difficult. I sleep in the jungle. But when police come and spray us (with teargas), we have to move," Afghan migrant Nabi told Reuters.

Nabi, a 13-year-old boy on his own, said he has to sleep in the forest while he waits for his chance to attempt to leave for the United Kingdom. 

Last stop before UK

Calais previously hosted what was known as the "Jungle" camp for thousands of migrants and refugees. The northern French town saw an increase in migrants attempting to enter the United Kingdom by jumping on boats or trucks crossing the English Channel.

The "Jungle" camp saw a surge in migrants in recent years due to the migrant crisis, holding more than 8,000 in October 2016 according to Help Refugees. Medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said in September 2015 that conditions at the camp were "miserable and worsening," with some migrants "making do with cardboard boxes, bags and plastic tarps or salvaged wood" for shelter.

The "Jungle" created friction between migrants and local residents, occasionally breaking out into violence. The camp was closed by French authorities in October 2016 and was demolished soon after. Most of the migrants have left the area, but those who stayed have to live in rough conditions.


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