Last Thursday, 25 February 2016, a French judge upheld a government plan to partially demolish the migrant camp near the port of Calais known as the “Jungle”. This ruling permitted French authorities to demolish many buildings which migrants in the camp had set up as temporary shelters.
The beginning of the operation to demolish parts of the refugee camp caused clashes between French police and migrants. Clare Moseley, of the British Volunteer Group Care4Calais, said that French officials gave camp residents only an hour’s notice to leave or face arrest.
By lunchtime on Monday, 29 February 2016, the homes of up to 200 people had been demolished. French riot police clashed with refugees and political activists. The crowds threw rocks. The police fired teargas canisters into the crowds.
Volunteers in Calais are especially worried about the effect of the demolition and unrest on families living in the camp. Liz Clegg, a British volunteer from the Calais Women’s and Children’s Centre, reported: “They’re very frightened; some of them have got very young children”.
French authorities want migrants to move from the camp either to a nearby compound of shipping containers which have been converted into temporary living spaces, or to take buses to accommodation centres elsewhere in France. But many migrants want to stay put. They mistrust the container camp – it requires handprint identification to enter – and it has only limited space left, not enough for the estimated 3,500 people still living in the main part of the camp.
Amnesty International’s Europe Director John Dalhuisen said: “French authorities must ensure that they don’t bulldoze through the rights of refugees and migrants, many of whom are likely to be extremely vulnerable… While the current situation in Calais is clearly unsustainable, evictions are no solution to a crisis on which the French and British governments have turned their backs for years”. A legal appeal has reportedly been launched against last Thursday’s ruling permitting the demolition.
In the UK, the right to respect for home and family life is protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has effect in UK law through the Human Rights Act. Take a look at our Article 8 poster here. We also have resources about the human rights of people seeking refuge and how forced evictions affect human rights.