The dismantling of the Calais refugee camp in northern France has not put an end to migrants’ dreams of Britain. While waiting for passage across the Channel, thousands of people – families, women, men and children – survive as they can in the forest, in terrible living conditions.
“The conditions are appalling”, denounced Didier Degrémont, president of the Secours Catholique delegation in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, in comments reported by Vatican News.
Almost every morning, Degrémont witnesses a sad spectacle: pushed by police, the refugees who have found makeshift shelter in the cemetery in the Calais forest fold up their tents, take their meagre belongings and move a few kilometres away.
Since the dismantling of the notorious Calais “jungle”, the living conditions of people waiting to cross the Channel have worsened.
On August 14, Secours Catholique and a dozen other associations such as Médecins du monde and L’Auberge des Migrants raised the alarm on the “inhumane” living conditions of migrants in the region.
Before the “jungle” was demolished, there was at least a minimum of infrastructure for the migrants, explained Degrémont, “but today we are in a situation where the State does not want any more migrants in the territory of Calais and everything is designed to push them out”.
Police intimidation and violence
Degrémont and his fellow aid workers in Calais decried “brutal evacuations” of migrants along with “physical violence, the confiscation of personal property and arrests”.
Evictions from Calais continued at the height of the coronavirus health crisis, deplored the human rights activist, who asked: “How was it proper to evict these poor people during the pandemic?”
Beside migrants’ lack of means and the violence they suffer, the associations also denounced a lack of dialogue with the authorities.
According to Degrémont, government policy regarding Calais has taken a worrying turn since French President Emmanuel Macron came to power in May 2017, and the appointment of Gérald Darmanin as Minister of the Interior has signalled the adoption of a particularly hard line on migrants.