Macron promises no return of ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais
Hundreds of asylum seekers hoping to cross the Channel remain in Calais, more than a year after authorities dismantled the town’s sprawling Jungle camp.
French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed not to allow the re-establishment of the “Jungle” camp of migrants in Calais.
His promise came as he visited the Channel port ahead of a UK-France summit at which reports suggest he will seek to renegotiate Britain’s role in dealing with migrants gathered there.
Mr Macron said the current “Dublin rules”, under which refugees are required to seek asylum in the first safe country they reach, were “unsatisfactory” and called for an “integrated” EU system to deal with the problem.
Hundreds of asylum seekers hoping to cross the Channel remain in the area, more than a year after authorities dismantled the town’s sprawling Jungle camp.
The president met Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart and organisations working with migrants on Tuesday, just two days before talks with Prime Minister Theresa May.
Aid groups have labelled the visit a “political show”, while organisation L’Auberge des Migrants declined to meet Mr Macron “to show our profound disagreement with the upcoming immigration law”.
One refugee called on the president to show “pity” for the plight of migrants in his policy.
Mr Macron said that Calais had become “a dead end for thousands of women and men who have spent years on the road”.
He said that all those arriving in France deserved “dignified and humane” treatment, and promised to provide more accommodation and speed up processing of asylum claims.
But he added: “For those who are not admitted, we must guarantee a rapid return to their country of origin. For years, we have been doing everything the wrong way round.”
Mr Macron said: “Everyone must know – everything is being done to prevent illegal passage to Great Britain… In no case will we let a new Jungle be set up in Calais.”
En aucun cas nous ne laisserons s'installer une nouvelle jungle à Calais. pic.twitter.com/zU3MhQjnMg— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) January 16, 2018
It has been reported that France wants to secure an increase in Britain’s financial contribution to the costs associated with the Calais migrant camps, where an estimated 700 people are living.
Senior French politicians are also said to be pressing the UK to receive more refugees from the region and lone children in particular.
Downing Street declined to say whether Mrs May would discuss the pressures at Calais when she meets Mr Macron on Thursday at the UK-France summit, which a spokesman said would highlight cross-Channel co-operation on issues such as climate change, air pollution, cyber threats and the human genome.
“We have taken a significant number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from the area in and around Calais already,” Mrs May’s spokesman told reporters.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We want to do all we can to make the border between the UK and France as secure as possible and this will be one part of the discussion when the Home Secretary meets the French Interior Minister on Thursday.
“We have already invested in security fencing, CCTV and detection technology but this is an ongoing process and, just as we invest in our borders around the rest of the UK, we constantly monitor whether there is more we can be doing at the UK border controls in France and Belgium.
“It is also vital that we continue our cooperation with France to minimise the impact of migration at the shared border, take action against criminal gangs and traffickers and reduce the factors which draw people towards it.”
Solenne Lecomte, from aid organisation La Cabine Juridique, called on Mr Macron to work with such groups to understand the reality of the situation and branded his visit a “political show”.
Speaking at a press conference in Calais on Tuesday, she said: “If you are talking about migrants you need to have at least migrant organisations working with you.
“You can’t just talk alone and decide alone.”
She described conditions in the camp as “dreadful”, with a lack of resources to support migrants.
“People are not stopping just because someone tells them they have to stop,” she said.
“Unless someone moves the border it will be the same situation for a long time.”
A 32-year-old refugee from Ethiopia, who has been living in the camp for six weeks, said the camps were a “disaster”.
The man, who did not wish to be identified, said: “We are all here to pass the border to get into England.
“Daily life is just running after lorries, and it’s not that easy. The borders are closed and there’s too much control.”
He added: “We are also confronting death and at the same time the violence of the police, which is really getting harder and harder.
“They beat you and they have no pity.”
The man, who is hoping to reach Canada where he has family, said migrants were just “people looking for a future”.
“I’m not expecting a lot but I just want to send a message to Mr Macron that we are humans and he is also human and he should have a little pity for us.”
He added: “Mr Macron is never going to have time for us because we are just nobody for him.
“They call us illegal. I don’t understand what that means.
“I’ve got a name, I’ve got an identity. So I’m not calling myself illegal.”