Hounding Migrants in France – The New York Times


A refugee looking on as “the Jungle” burned in Calais, France, in 2016.

Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Nine months after the razing of a squalid migrant camp in Calais, France, known as “the Jungle,” where between 6,000 and 10,000 people were living, local authorities and President Emmanuel Macron’s government are determined to prevent a new camp from springing up. A new report charges that the police in Calais have abused some 500 migrants — nearly half of them minors — and harassed aid workers trying to help them. “There’s nowhere else that I can think of where I’ve encountered to this extent the use of pepper spray on people who were sleeping and especially on sleeping children,” said Michael Bochenek of Human Rights Watch.

After France’s ombudsman for human rights, Jacques Toubon, demanded authorities end “violations of the most elementary fundamental rights” of migrants in Calais last month, the government of Mr. Macron instructed the local authorities to show “more humanity” and promised a new plan on migration. Part of the plan, presented by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on July 12, is welcome: accelerating asylum determination and providing more help to approved refugees. But this is twinned with an aggressive effort to deport economic migrants ineligible for asylum and return asylum seekers — as is the European Union rule — to the first European country they entered.

In practice, this means Italy, where most of the migrants arriving in Europe via Libya first land. Italy is not happy, all the more so as it was excluded from Mr. Macron’s peace summit between the leaders of Libya’s main warring factions on Tuesday.

Mr. Macron also promised on Thursday “new accommodation centers everywhere” for migrants. Never mind that sufficient funds have not been allocated, that there is stiff local resistance to new centers and that the migrants in Calais, those crossing the Italian border into southern France, or those sleeping outside an overloaded migrant center on the edge of Paris will probably not be eligible.

The rapporteur of France’s highest court recommended on Friday that the court reject the city of Calais’s and the French interior ministry’s appalling refusal to provide even water and toilets for migrants. Mr. Macron needs immediately to instruct local authorities to allow aid…

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