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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: À Calais, la vie indigne des migrants

by Paule Masson

Calais: The migrants’ life of indignity

Editorial by Paule Masson

Translated Saturday 23 August 2014, by Hannah Mosford

"For these exiled people, who are fleeing misery and wars, the hope of crossing the sea will always be the strongest."

On 2nd September, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, might visit Calais, therefore making immigration the first political issue under consideration on his return from the summer break. Meanwhile, Eric Ciotti of the UMP did not attend the end of the summer break in protest at the ’laxity’ in France towards the question of migration. Since the closure in 2002 of the centre at Sangatte, those applying for passage to England are held at Calais in undignified conditions. For the majority of the time, calm reigns. But just one altercation was enough to restart the migrants’ lawsuit.

The dismantlement of several camps in the town on 28th May last year - a shameful operation called a ’sanitary evacation’ by Bernard Cazeneuve - signalled the start of a crackdown which has only got bigger. Throughout the summer, each rebuilt living space has been destroyed, causing the fragile solidarity woven by the organisations around the encampments to be torn to pieces. The exiled, who have only the streets for refuge, were hunted down by the police. Faced with a growth in their number, the only response from the government has been to appoint 40 extra CRS (state security police force) officers with the surveillance of the port.

"I don’t have a magic solution", Manuel Valls stated during a trip to Calais in December 2013. How should we take this admission when associations, both NGO and otherwise, are developing proposals. The starting point for all in charge, both humanitarian and administrative, has been an emergency call for immediately available accommodation. In the more long term, Calais, European migratory platform, could welcome a European reception centre. Migrants will not magically disappear. For these exiled people, who are fleeing misery and wars, the hope of crossing the sea will always be stronger than the humiliations they have suffered. The inhuman fate which is reserved for them calls for an inclusive political response, that is - the complete opposite of clampdowns and the reinforcement of checks.

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