Migrants around Calais

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Sudanese migrants in Calais jungle, June 2015

Since 1999, thousands of migrants and refugees (mostly from Africa and Asia) have gathered around the French port city of Calais, seeking to enter the United Kingdom by crossing the Channel Tunnel[1] or by surreptitiously boarding the cargo area of lorries heading for ferries that cross the English Channel.[2] They have formed an unauthorised community commonly referred to as the "Calais Jungle". This issue has affected the British and French governments, the Eurotunnel and P&O Ferries companies, and lorry drivers heading for the UK and their companies. Eurotunnel, the company that operates the Channel Tunnel, said that it intercepted more than 37,000 migrants between January 2015 and July 2015.[3]

Location[edit]

Calais is a significant trade hub, with millions of tons of goods passing through to and from Great Britain each day by truck, train, and ship. This increases the potential for migrants to stow away on vehicles passing through, as well as the economic costs of the disruption that they cause. When the weather is clear, it is possible to see the British coast 25 kilometers away.[4]

The migrants prefer the UK to other European countries due to greater economic growth and the relative ease of finding undocumented work, the latter being due to the application of habeas corpus preventing the checking of migrants' identification in some situations.[5] The UK is also a desirable destination because English is a widely known language, and because it is easier to reach than other English speaking destinations such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Migrant population[edit]

A young migrant dribbling a ball at the camp during October 2015

A July 2016 survey of the population of the "Calais Jungle" by Help Refugees counted 7,307 migrants, of which 761 were minors: the largest number to date. At that time, the population was increasing by an average of 50 people per day.[6] After the Brexit vote on 23 June 2016, the population had reportedly increased to nearly 10,000.[7]

An estimated 62 percent of the migrants are young men; the migrants' average age is 33.[8] The mix of nationalities has changed over time, with Kurdish Iraqis being the largest group initially,[9] but by 2014 many people had begun to arrive from the Horn of Africa and Sudan.[10] Many of the Kurdish Iraqis later moved to similar camps near Calais and Dunkirk.[9][11][12][13][14][15] Most of them do not speak French.[16]

Most of the camp's residents are attempting, or have attempted, to enter Britain to work illegally, rather than claim asylum in France,[17][18] although the number claiming asylum rose after changes in 2014 to the procedures for that. Britain does not operate a national identity card system, making it an attractive destination for migrants.[3][19] Many migrants have paid smugglers to bring them to Calais:[17] one migrant from Egypt, a college graduate, stated that he "paid $3,000 to leave Egypt and risked [his] life on a boat to Italy spending days at sea", and that he had tried to reach Britain twenty times in one month. Another, an Eritrean woman with a one-year-old child, had paid £3,650 for the transportation of her and her husband to Italy, but her husband had drowned during the journey.[19] Migrants risk their lives when they try to climb aboard or travel on lorries, occasionally falling off and breaking bones. The camps themselves are also dangerous, particularly for women, with high levels of substance abuse and violence.[19][20]

Legal framework[edit]

Treaties[edit]

The laws for processing of migrants and management of the situation are set by European agreements while the UK remains in the EU, and by bilateral agreements between the UK and France relating to the Channel Tunnel. As the UK opted out of the Schengen agreement, it is not obligated to eliminate border controls between itself and other EU countries, leading to the accumulation of the migrants in Calais.[5]

Bilateral agreements include the 1991 Sangatte treaty regarding border controls in Coquelles and Folkestone, which was later supplemented by the 2003 Touquet Treaty, which increased the powers of the police at the border,[5] and defines the obligations of the UK and France to accept refugees.

French rule of law[edit]

When the French justice system determines that a person is in France illegally, a OQTF (obligation de quitter le territoire français et réadmissions), an order to leave France or be deported to country of origin, can be issued. This is defined in the CESEDA law (fr:Code de l'entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d'asile).

However, many of the camps' inhabitants lack identification and even a legal identity in their countries of origin, as is the case with many people of Érythréens, Ethiopian, and Sudanese nationality. For a person in this situation, a OQTF cannot be issued, either because it is unclear to what country the person should be deported, or because neither their countries of origin nor other countries in the Schengen area will accept them.[5]

Security measures[edit]

Fencing in Calais

Britain and France operate a system of Juxtaposed controls on immigration and customs, where investigations happen before travel, so once stowaways are in a vehicle in the tunnel, they are able to enter the United Kingdom without further checks.[21] To discourage vehicle operators from facilitating this, lorry drivers are fined £2,000 per stowaway, if they are caught in the UK.[22]

On August 20, 2015, Theresa May arrived in Calais with Bernard Cazeneuve, the French minister of the interior, to confirm a new agreement to address the crisis. The agreement invests £7 million in new security measures, including basing British police officers in a new control center in Calais that regularly reports to May and Cazeneuve regarding immigration-related criminal activities on both sides of the Channel.[23] The port of Calais is protected by 5 meter tall fences topped with coils of razor wire and surveillance cameras. Additional fencing is being constructed along the motorway leading to the port. The UK is investing £3 million in heartbeat and carbon dioxide detectors, and dog searches, for UK-bound lorries in France.[22]

Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, has called for the problem to be solved through more security at the periphery of the European Union to prevent people from entering Europe illegally.[24]

Sangatte migrants camp (1999–2002)[edit]

In the late 1990s growing numbers of migrants, including women and children, were found sleeping in the streets of Calais and surrounding towns. Most were hoping to enter the UK, either through the Channel Tunnel under, or by the P&O Ferries over the English Channel.[25] In 1999, at the request of the French government, the French Red Cross opened a refugee camp in Sangatte in a giant warehouse about 800 metres (0.50 mi) from the entrance to the Channel Tunnel.[25] Sangatte was planned to house 600 people,[25] but by 2002 it held 2,000.[26] living in squalid conditions.[25]

Tensions between ethnic groups in Sangatte for the best places in the camp from which to board trains at the Fréthun Eurotunnel rail freight terminal grew, as it was 5 km (3.1 mi) from Calais.[25] Eurotunnel stated in 2001 that they were stopping 200 refugees each night, mostly from Sangatte, who aimed to smuggle themselves into Britain, and called on France to shut the camp.[25] On Christmas Day 2001, a mass of people broke through all security barriers, and 500 of them stormed the Channel Tunnel.[25] By 2002, the Eurotunnel company had spent £6 million (€8 million) on security measures around the 650-hectare (1,600-acre) terminal site,[27] such as fences, razor wire, cameras, and 360 security guards patrolling daily.[25]

On 3 December 2002, the French Minister of Home Affairs, Nicolas Sarkozy, announced the definitive closure of the camp at Sangatte on 30 December 2002, in exchange for the promise of the British government to accept 1,000 Kurdish refugees and some 250 Afghans, who would all receive a work permit for three months, which dealt with 80% of the refugees and migrants in Sangatte at that time. The remaining people received a residence permit in France.[28]

Various 'jungle' camps (2002–2014)[edit]

Since 2002, migrants in Calais slept in squats, slums and outdoor camps known as "jungles" that were repeatedly raided[29] or bulldozed by police before cropping up elsewhere, and they ate from charity soup kitchens.[26] Migrants caught during an attempt to sneak and hide aboard a lorry would be taken to the police station, get a warning, and freely return to their 'jungle'.[30] At some date between 2002 and 2009, the UN Refugee Agency set up a permanent office in Calais to offer asylum advice to migrants.[30] In April 2009, the police raided and bulldozed a camp and arrested 190 migrants.[30]

One large 'jungle', in the woods around Calais,[30] with tents made out of metal grilles and plastic sheeting[30] and wooden shelters, housing 700–800 mainly Afghan migrants,[29] was an unsanitary campsite.[30] It was raided in September 2009, 276 protesting migrants were arrested and put on buses, bulldozers were expected to destroy their shelters later that day.[29] The jungle inhabitants were partly imprisoned at the nearby Centre de Rétention of Coquelles, many more were taken to detention centres all over France before being released and making the journey back to Calais by foot. After the closing of this camp, the French authorities threatened to repatriate "sans-papiers" ("immigrés en situation irrégulière") to Afghanistan.[31]

In July 2014, the French police once again expelled migrants from a camp in Calais.[32]

Rushes on Channel ferries (2014)[edit]

By September 2014, some 1,200 to 1,500[32][33][34] migrants, mainly Eritreans, Sudanese, Afghans,[33] Somalis[32] and Syrians,[34] lived in makeshift camps or disused buildings[35] in Calais and made regular attempts to hide in lorries bound to cross the Channel to Britain.[33]

On 4 September, at the P&O Ferry docks of Calais, 100 migrants forced open a gate, climbed over fences and tried to storm onto a ferry to Britain. One ship's crew used their fire hoses to prevent them from boarding.[33]

Days later, 250 migrants tried to storm and get into vehicles on a lorry park about to cross to the UK, the police scattered them with tear gas.[36]

On 17 September, 250 migrants, after tearing down fences and cutting wire, rushed lorries queuing to get on board ferries, the police used tear gas and baton charges to chase them away.[35]

After those incidents, the British government promised to contribute up to £12 million (€14 million) to the French to help prevent people from crossing the Channel to Britain illegally.[37]

By October, the number of migrants at Calais was 1,500.[37] In mid-October, 350 migrants again tried to climb aboard trucks at Calais in an attempt to reach Britain, the riot police (CRS) used tear gas to disperse them.[37]

At an unknown date, a Syrian refugee sneaked into the UK on a trailer loaded with new lorry cabs and eventually was granted asylum in the UK.[38]

Jules Ferry day centre and 'new jungle' camp (2015-present)[edit]

A Sudanese migrant sits in his self-constructed cottage in the New Jungle, June 2015

In January 2015, the French government opened the Jules Ferry day centre for migrants at Calais, in a former children's holiday camp.[39] It was intended to provide overnight accommodation for 50 women and children (but not to men),[26][34] one hot meal per day and daytime showers and toilets (to everyone including men),[26] and mobile phone charging.[39]

By April 2015, over 1,000 men were sleeping rough on wasteland on the edge of Calais where they were building again an open-air shanty town known as "the new jungle".[26] Charity workers said that 100 people in that "new jungle" had already claimed asylum in France but still had no accommodation.[26] A camp has also sprung up in Dunkirk, around 40 km from Calais.[40] Most of the migrants are Kurdish Iraqis.[41][42][43][44][45][46] 90 percent of the migrants are Kurds.[47]

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ten people have died trying to cross the Channel Tunnel since the start of June 2015.[1] One Calais jungle from 2015 has been estimated to have approximately 6,000 inhabitants.[1][48]

In early June 2015, the police dismantled some smaller encampments in Calais.[34] By mid-June, the city council of Calais estimated 3,000 migrants to be living in encampments.[34][49] As of November 2015, there were an estimated 6,000 migrants living in the camp.[48] As of October 2016, 'Help Refugees' put the number at 8,143.[50]

Starting on 24 October 2016, the French government planned to evacuate 6,400 migrants from the encampment in 170 buses with the intent of resettling the migrants in different regions of France.[51] On 26 October 2016, French authorities announced that the camp had been cleared of all migrants.[50]

Truck driver attacks (2015-present)[edit]

Since the start of the European migrant crisis, truck drivers heading for the UK have been repeatedly threatened and attacked by migrants. In December 2015, 13 trucks were hit with stones, with migrants trying to jump into trucks from motorway overpasses.[52] In March 2016, a truck driver was physically assaulted by migrants, sustaining minor injuries, while his truck was also damaged.[53] In August 2016, a driver was threatened with a chainsaw by migrants wishing to board trucks to the UK.[54][55] Truck drivers have also violently confronted migrants found stowed away in their trucks, and one Hungarian truck driver filmed how he directed his truck towards a group of migrants that hurled rocks at his truck.[56]

The first death was recorded on 20 June 2017, when migrants stopped a lorry on the A16 autoroute with a tree trunk, in order to stowaway in the cargo area.[57] A van registered in Poland hit the lorry, and burst into fire, killing the van driver.[58] Nine migrants from Eritrea have been arrested in connection with this incident.[57]

In July 2017 a lorry driver was attacked with a brick and left for dead by the migrants who stole the driver's lorry. The driver suffered severe head injuries and the migrants were arrested.[59]

Migrant sites in France outside Calais[edit]

Other smaller, migrant sites exist in France outside Calais; the charity Association Terre d'Errance (Wandering Earth Association) estimates that eleven camps exist in the northern part of the country.[60] The largest of these is the Grande-Synthe site near Dunkirk.[60] On that site, in the first and older camp of Basroch refugee camp, migrants (mostly Iraqi Kurdish families) lived under deplorable conditions on a boggy wasteland site, without adequate sanitation facilities or shelter; the site was cited as being worse than Calais.[61][62] In March 2016, as demolition work was taking place at the "Jungle" site in Calais, a new camp called La Liniere refugee camp was developed at the Grande-Synthe site—"France's first ever refugee camp to meet international humanitarian standards." It opened with 200 of 375 projected cabins already built by Medecins Sans Frontieres. A total capacity of 2,500 people is expected.[62] Traffickers sexually abuse migrants both women and children by raping them in exchange for blankets, food or opportunity to evade to the UK.[63]

Other than Calais and Grande-Synthe, encampments were reported to exist in 2015 in Paris, Dieppe, Boulogne and Le Havre.[60]

Reactions[edit]

In August 2015, Vincent Cochetel, the director for Europe at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, described the crisis as a "civil emergency".[1] Later that month, Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, said that the United Nations had to intervene in the crisis in order to stop the French government from allowing people to try to enter the UK illegally,[64] and on August 20, Theresa May, then the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, expressed concern that the crisis could spread to other ports, such as Dunkirk.[65]

In 2015, Nigel Farage at the time leader of the U.K. Independence Party, called for the military to search incoming vehicles to address a "lawless, scary" situation.[3]

Calais blockade[edit]

On 5 September 2016, truck drivers and local farmers near Calais protested against "wilful destruction" by migrants residing in the camps.[66] Lorry drivers and farmers used their vehicles on the A16 motorway to slow down entry to the Port of Calais.

The protest, organised by local lorry drivers and farmers, also attracted a number of local trade unions and Calais protestors.[67] The protest called for the closure and removal of the local town's migrant camp, commonly known as the Calais Jungle.[68] The president of the Association of Calais Traders has stated "We will not budge from the motorway until the state gives us the dates for the total demolition of the northern zone of the Jungle."[69][70]

This protest marked the first time the Association of Calais Traders took a physical approach to protesting the Calais Jungle migrant camp, which was dismantled in October 2016.[67][71]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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