A year after the dismantling of a refugee camp commonly known as 'The Jungle' in Calais, violence by police against migrants in northern France has risen to excessive, life-threatening levels, and the overall situation for unaccompanied minors has deteriorated considerably, according to a report by Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP). Titled 'Twelve Months On,' 233 migrants in the area were interviewed with 94 of them being minors.
Twelve months after the demolition of the camp, "a large number of displaced people, including hundreds of unaccompanied children, are sleeping rough in Calais, seeking shelter under improvised tarps and tents". The survey was carried out between October 19 and October 22 and found that about 700 migrants are still in the area, the treatment of which "is characterized by excessive use of police force, a chronic lack of available information about asylum laws, substandard living conditions and an inadequate response to the safeguarding needs of unaccompanied minors in displacement".
The report notes that "a staggering 91.8% had experienced police violence. This is an even higher percentage than during the time of the Calais camp (75.9%) and during RRDP's research in April 2017 (89.2%)". The percentage increases when looking at minors only "with 93.6% having experienced some form of police violence". Minors say that tear gas was used and beatings occurred during the night and some said that they had been taken by police several hours on foot away from their makeshift shelters and left in the middle of the road. "The police beat me with a baton, which gave me cuts across the hands and chipped my front tooth. They also sprayed tear gas into my eyes,'' a 17-year-old from South Sudan said. ''While I was sleeping, they came over and sprayed me on my face, they hit me with their baton on my knees which left me numb. They took my shoes and told me to leave,'' a 23-year-old from Eritrea said.
Minors left without assistance
Previous reports had spoken of police violence in Calais but were rejected by the authorities, "including Vincent Berton, the Deputy Prefect for Calais, who said that 'these are allegations, individuals' declarations, not based on fact'.'' After the camp was demolished, the report went on to say, "an estimated 1,500 unaccompanied children were thought to have been transported to state-run accommodation centres across France or gone into hiding nearby.
Many unaccompanied children were also thought to have simply disappeared in the midst of the tumult.'' The survey found that several hundred child refugees are in the Calais area and that many of them could be admitted into the UK: of the minors interviewed by RRDP - many of whom sleep in the forests or camps around Calais - about 30% said that they had relatives in the UK.