A French court has ordered the country’s government to provide water and sanitation for hundreds of migrants sleeping rough around the northern port of Calais, raising fears that a new Jungle camp may be formed.
Judges criticised the French government’s refusal to meet migrants’ basic needs, accusing the state of exposing them to “inhuman and degrading treatment, dealing a serious and clearly illegal blow to a basic right”.
The Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, ruled that both national and regional government must now provide the mostly UK-bound migrants with water, toilets and washing facilities.
Officials had raised concerns that doing so could attract more migrants to the area, and eventually result in the creation of a new camp similar to the squalid Jungle shantytown that was pulled down on the orders of the French government last October.
The Jungle camp acted as a magnet for people smuggling gangs, and was said to have been beset by serious violence and sexual exploitation, among other crimes.
Natacha Bouchart, Mayor of Calais, said her office would ignore the order: “The decision by the Council of State is unfair to the people of Calais because it threatens them with the emergence of yet another Jungle.
“In the absence of a national and European policy offering a global solution on controlling immigration, Calais will not implement the injunctions.”
Despite having argued that supplying water and sanitation facilities around Calais would have a “pull effect” on UK-bound migrants, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb responded to the court’s ruling by announcing two new refugee shelters in the towns of Bailleul and Troisvaux, situated some 80 kilometres away from Calais
Speaking with reporters, Collomb said each of the shelters would have the capacity to hold 300 people, despite the fact that fewer than 400 migrants are thought to have returned to the Calais area.
Concerns have already been raised that migrants who have gravitated back to the town pose a risk to its residents, as well as hauliers and tourists who use the nearby port and Channel Tunnel.
At the end of last month, a lorry driver was reportedly left for dead after he was attacked by a group of migrants intent on using his truck to illegally enter the UK.
In interviews for a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that was published last week, asylum seekers and migrants sleeping rough in and around the Calais and Dunkirk areas explained how local authorities had attempted to block their access to humanitarian support provided by charities.
At the beginning of June, two NGOs accused French police of behaving aggressively towards migrants who had returned to the Calais area.
One charity worker said police officers had been burning holes in migrants’ sleeping bags and making holes in their water canisters.
“Such police conduct in and around Calais is an abuse of power, violating the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment as well as an unjustifiable interference with the migrants’ rights to food and water,” HRW said in its report.