For a second week running, the desperate situation of migrants gathering in the northern French port of Calais in the hope of finding a clandestine passage to Britain has been making headlines on both sides of the Channel. This Tuesday, Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart appeared before a largely hostile British parliamentary committee on immigration and warned that the migrants were “ready to die” to reach Britain, which she criticised for focussing on greater security alone as a solution to the recent sharp rise in the numbers of those arriving in Calais from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, many of whom have fled war zones. Most, including women and children, live rough in makeshift camps in and around the town, where racist attacks against them are on the rise and where aid associations complain they can no longer cope with what one major French charity, the Secours Catholique, has warned is an imminent “humanitarian crisis of a size never known here”. Haydée Sabéran reports from Calais on the everyday human misery of the migrants, the despair of those involved in helping them, and lifts the lid on a myth, bolstered by events in the Channel port, that Britain is bearing the brunt of clandestine immigration to Europe.
Marine Le Pen claimed the migrant crisis in the Channel port had made it 'no more than a jungle' where 'the rule of law no longer holds sway'.
Tensions were running high this week in the French Channel port of Calais, which since the late 1990s has become a major gathering site for migrants, essentially from Africa and central Asia, hoping to cross illegally to Britain by any available means. Riot police fired tear gas grenades during clashes with migrants who tried to storm trucks bound for Britain, and intervened to deal with fighting between armed rival migrant groups. Meanwhile, an Ethiopian woman was killed as she tried to cross a motorway beside the port, the third migrant to die on nearby roads in as many weeks. On Friday, far-right Front National party leader Marine Le Pen seized on the situation to make a high-profile visit to the port on Friday, when police struggled to keep her supporters and opponents apart. The grim reality of the daily lives of the migrants, so often ignored amid political rhetoric and cross-Channel arguments about how to improve the port’s security, is portrayed in an acclaimed and compelling documentary by French filmmaker Sylvain George, which Mediapart presents here in its entirety.
The International Committee of the Red Cross calls it “a major problem”, while the United Nations says it has no idea of the numbers involved. The one thing that is certain is that at least hundreds of families in Gaza are still looking for relatives who have disappeared without trace following the 50-day Israeli offensive that began in July. For some, the answer may lie beneath the rubble of destroyed buildings that still litter the land. But there is also speculation that other missing Palestinians may be detained in Israel, or have met death as they fled by sea to Europe. Mediapart’s Middle East and North Africa affairs correspondent Pierre Puchot reports from Gaza on an enduring mystery that has become something of a taboo.
Officers say there are not enough of them to cope with the large number of migrants crossing the area in the hope of reaching Britain.
The agreement announced on Saturday provides for tighter border controls and increased cooperation between French and British police.
Police in used tear gas to stop a third recent incident of fighting between Sudanese and Eritrean migrants in the French channel port.
Officers clear makeshift camp housing some 500 migrants at a food distribution point close to the French port where they had been squatting.
The insalubrious camps of migrants hoping to reach Britain, were razed for what officials said were health and safety reasons.
French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says it is up to European political leaders to find a solution, adding 'compassion is not enough'.
Dozens of Syrian refugees in France, who have blocked an entry ramp to English Channel ferries in Calais, say they are determined to get to UK.
Clément, a young man from Cameroon, was simply seeking a better life in Europe. But in March, while trying to cross from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Melilla, witnesses say he was so badly beaten by law enforcement officers that he died of his injuries. An Italian documentary producer was there just after his ordeal and filmed his final hours. Carine Fouteau reports on the continuing scandal of the way migrants are treated at the gateway to Europe.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi this week called for a reform of the Schenghen Agreement that allows passport-free, cross-border travel across most of the EU. They want the treaty to allow for a return to tight policing of frontiers, in reaction to the arrival in Europe in recent months of thousands of migrants fleeing strife-torn North Africa (photo). Carine Fouteau reports on why such a move is unnecessary and more of a nod to domestic electoral considerations than a considered response to a growing humanitarian crisis.