News has spread this morning of continued attempts by French police to dismantle what has become known as the Calais ‘Jungle’. The camp is home to hundreds of dwellings for some 3500 refugees currently inhabiting the region. The operation began on early Monday morning when a demolition team arrived with diggers. Residents were warned they had a mere hour to relocate before their shelters would be destroyed. The Guardian has reported police had fired teargas at approximately 150 people and activists who began resisting the process and that at least three of the shelters had been set on fire.
The proposed alternative from the French Government is a biometric security protected compound with room for only 1500 refugees. Supposed security measures include the scanning of hand prints upon entry into and exit from, the compound. Such measures raise fears among the refugee population that the French government may be attempting to force refugees to claim asylum within French borders. Many of the refugees hope to make a home in the UK, shedding light on the fact that Calais remains the joint responsibility of both the French and UK governments.
Irrespective of motive, the actions taken by the French police on behalf of the government appear to be a disproportionately harsh response to what is already an incredibly delicate situation. Many volunteer groups have spoken out about the inappropriateness of the proposed solution, rightfully suggesting that this will do little to solve the root cause of this issue. Certainly, taking away the little autonomy that these displaced people have left is of grave concern from a human rights perspective. Accordingly, the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre would like to publicly deplore the action taken by the French government and welcome the response of humanitarian and other such groups in working towards a peaceful solution to the current situation. As previously argued in the November edition of Peace and Justice News, the UK should work towards a considerable increase in refugee intake. Any meaningful action taken by either the French or the UK government should involve a dignified and respectful dialogue with all parties, such that the global community can be rest assured that the human rights of disenfranchised groups are being sufficiently protected. Undoubtedly, the disruption caused by bulldozers and lines of riot police is a long, long way from the European human rights standards that the rest of the world has attempted to emulate.
By Zoe Cameron and Sarah MacDonald