This week marked the “full and final” dismantlement and clearance of the notorious camp “the Jungle” in Calais, which had been announced by President Hollande on September 24 on humanitarian grounds. The operation aimed at the eviction of the camp’s 8,000 residents, who after entering Europe, settled in Calais, with the hope of eventually smuggle themselves across the Channel in order to join the United Kingdom.
The Jungle had become France’s largest shanty town. It was organised into different neighbourhoods and was composed of shops, restaurants and schools; however, its inhabitants also suffered disproportionately of insecure tenure, constant threat of eviction by French authorities and poor access to water and sanitation. Migrants of the Jungle originated from countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, but also from the Middle East, from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as from Bangladesh and Pakistan. While the camp counted economic migrants -that is migrants fleeing poverty and misery-, an important number of migrants were fleeing civil war, violence and oppressive regimes in states like war-torn states like Syria, Eritrea and Sudan. Calais’ Jungle had become the symbol of the migration crisis in Europe, and Europe’s failure to manage the flow of migrants across its borders.
From Monday morning until Wednesday, more than 5,500 migrants had been relocated to various reception centres across the country. After queuing for two to three hours, migrants and families gathered in a large warehouse turned into a coach station outside the Jungle, were divided into four different groups: ordinary migrants, migrants claiming to be accompanied minors, families and vulnerable people. Migrants were then given a few minutes to pick among the 280 reception and asylum centres spread across the country, with the exception of Paris and Corsica. Migrants should be authorized to stay in the reception centres for a few months while their asylum request is considered. On Tuesday, authorities began to remove the settlement before migrants set ablaze to their tents and makeshift shelters when they leave.
Following the agitation and incidents of March after the demolition of the southern half of the Jungle, French authorities along civil society and aid workers had been in recent weeks sharing information in order to prepare migrants’ eviction and convince them to accept temporary resettlement solutions in reception centres. Migrants received leaflets and comics detailing the plans and procedures that will follow their arrival in reception centres. Pas-de-Calais region’s officials and other French authorities have in the past weeks met the camp’s community leaders to ensure peaceful evacuation and the Ofpra asylum agency has been trying to convince migrants to seek asylum in France. Out of the 6400 migrants settled in the Jungle, the Ofpra estimates that 70 percent of migrants evicted from the Jungle should be given French residency and asylum right. Additionally, 1,200 riot police had been deployed around the camp. Also, French authorities has announced that migrants refusing resettlement solutions will face arrest. Large incidents have largely been minimized and the dismantlement proceeded rather smoothly and took place in a somehow peaceful manner.
During the operation, the French and British governments have been repeatedly blamed by the civil society for their lack of solution and aid for the unaccompanied refugee children living in the Jungle. While the relocation plan for the adult refugees and migrants of the Jungle had been announced and prepared, there still seems to be confusion and concerns on the fate of the 1,300 unaccompanied minor migrants in the camp.
In the past weeks, the British government agreed for the transfer and resettlement of 200 unaccompanied children of the camp who were able to prove family ties in the United Kingdom, under the European Union common asylum rules and the Dublin Regulation. However, establishing evidence of how many of these children are truly under 18 is a challenging task as many do not have any identity cards or birth certificates.
There was still on-going negotiations and meetings between the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve and the UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd regarding the transfer of other children with no evidence of family connections in the UK. Indeed, another 200 unaccompanied children identified by the Red Cross as eligible to go to Britain remain stuck in an on-site container camp, where they will be assessed for eligibility for migrating to the UK. A large number of commentators and aid workers claimed the Jungle should never had been demolished until all the children were safe.
On Tuesday evening, while the Jungle evacuation began, UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd announced several hundreds additional children will be transferred to the UK under the Dubs amendment, aiming at protecting refugee children across Europe. However, one in four Councils in the UK announced they cannot take responsibility for them. Additionally, Rudd repeatedly emphasised in her speech that no more children should be encouraged to come to Calais in the future. In other words, the fate of the hundreds of refugee children of the Jungle claiming family ties remains uncertain and worrying.
The majority of the European community regrets the evacuation of the Jungle has taken so long. Calais has in fact become the symbol of the EU’s failure to find adequate and efficient solution to the tremendous and sudden influx of refugees and migrants.
Regarding minors, Calais illustrates the failure of the EU to find appropriate solution and deal with the record number of unaccompanied minor refugees applying for asylum in Europe. EUROPOL estimates the number of missing child refugees in Europe at approximately 10,000 and found that 88,245 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the EU in 2015. The EU failed to put the protection of unaccompanied child refugees as a top priority, while European asylum system includes specific provisions for their protection. Under European legislation, minors who claim to have family ties in the EU are entitled to be with their family. Also, the Dublin Regulation should guarantee the protection of asylum applicants and especially guarantee the protection of minors. The lack of attention of EU’s member states and of European institutions resulted in a worrying number of disappearance and forced children into the hands of human traffickers.
In addition to its inability to develop efficient solutions for unaccompanied child refugees, the EU also proved unable to constrain Britain to take in its fair share of asylum seekers. EU member states failed to cooperate and coordinate and shown a complete absence of leadership and responsibility. Exacerbated by the Brexit, the EU has also been unable to sole the border issues existing between the UK and France. Last July, a delegation of MEPs from the LIBE Commission went to Calais to assess the situation in the refugee camp. While MEPs are working on several propositions aiming at tackling the issue, such as opening legal means in refugees’ home countries to access the EU and reforming the system of relocation of refugees among member states; Italian S&D MEP Cécile Kashetu Kyenge who was part of the delegation in Calais declared: “We are not lacking proposals, we are lacking common vision in Europe”. The failure of European member states to cooperate threatens the cohesion of the Union itself.
What happened in Calais is an expression of a much deeper problem within the European migration policy. Commentators indeed argue that if the EU’s asylum system had been performant, the camp in Calais would never have existed in the first place (Taub, 2016). European asylum and migration policy and the EU’s response to the migrant crisis are embedded within the Dublin Regulation.
The Dublin Regulation requires migrants to physically stay in the first European country they arrived in until their asylum applications are being processed. Under the Dublin mechanism, authorities have the right to return a migrant to another member states’ jurisdiction where there is a trace of his passage or entry. As a result, migrants settle in illegal settlements like the Jungle of Calais where they can easily escape supervision, while attempting to reach the UK. The Dublin mechanism is problematic as it creates a system where the responsibility for processing asylum application is linked to border management. Consequently, the burden of migration is put on entry and transit countries at Europe’s external borders and therefore creates an imbalance in the reception responsibility of migrants. Indeed, the Dublin mechanism enables countries including the UK and Hungary to shift away the burden of the refugee crisis to other member states, especially entry countries like Greece and Italy, which carry the burden of the migration crisis unilaterally. By preventing migrants to access countries like the UK that receive very little migrants, the Regulation resulted in the creation of camps in southern Europe and in Calais, qualified as humanitarian fiasco.
The European Parliament has called for an urgent reform of the system, noting that in the absence of a genuine common European asylum system, the Dublin system “will continue to be unfair both to asylum seekers and Member States”. The migration crisis has largely shed the light on the deficiencies of the Dublin system, which has been repeatedly criticized by Member States’ governments and EU representatives. The implications of Dublin III had largely been underestimated and its consequences eventually went against its original aim, that was preventing ‘asylum shopping” and “refugees in orbit”, that is the endless transfers of asylum seekers with no state taking responsibility. Despite deficiencies and criticism, the Dublin system remains in force.
On May 4th 2016, the European Commission proposed a reform of Dublin III, however the proposal does not attempt to change fundamentally the mechanism. The core objectives of the proposal Dublin IV are:
- Strengthen the protection of asylum seekers and make the overall process more efficient so that asylum procedures and decisions are produced more quickly so that asylum seekers can be granted international protection quickly while respecting Members States’ individual administrative capacity (European Parliament, 2016).
- Prevent secondary movements of refugees across the EU and discourage ‘asylum shopping’
- Articulate and develop tools and schemes to face large-scale crisis pressuring Member States’ asylum systems; as well as creating an equity mechanism that ensures sufficient degree of solidarity and responsibility sharing between states.
The proposal aims at reforming the common asylum system, especially strengthening responsibility sharing; relocation schemes; and crisis management mechanism. Nevertheless, the Dublin IV proposal is unlikely to achieve its objectives and more particularly enhancing fundamental rights respect as it does not include asylum seekers’ preferences into asylum legislation. As argued by Doctor Hruschka (2016), the proposal Dublin IV is founded on the idea that secondary movements are the result of divergent asylum practices across member states. However, other motives for movements of refugees such as family ties, cultural links and economic prosperity are largely ignored by the proposal. Especially, it limits the possibility for migrants to initiate asylum procedures in countries other that their entry ones, which was behind the creation of the Jungle itself. In other words, Dublin IV appears to suffer from similar deficiencies and shortcomings as its previous version.
European Institutions along some European leaders attempted to put in place refugee compulsory quotas so that the burden of the migrant crisis can be divided equally among states, which would prevent the development of unsanitary camps like Calais or in the Greek island of Lesbos. The proposition was nonetheless rejected by head of states including Obran in Hungary, and therefore seems far from being agreed on.
Really the end of the Jungle?
Organisations such as Médecins du Monde worry of what is to come after the clearance operations of the camp and whether there will be adequate structure for refugees. Indeed, the influx of refugees and migrants arriving in Calais to reach the UK will not slow down with the dismantling of the camp. Aid workers largely argue the demolition of the camp and of its infrastructures does not constitute a long-term solution and might eventually result in the burgeoning of smaller-scale camps around the region of Calais. There are also concerns that the clearance of the Jungle will simply shift the issue to other parts of the northern coast of France of Belgium. Commentators argue that the approval of the UK government to pay for the building of a wall along the motorway in Calais proves authorities do not really believe the demolition of the Jungle will put an end to the crisis in Calais.
Nevertheless, much will depend on the services offered to migrants in reception centres; the lengthen of asylum procedure proceeding. Indeed, the sustainability of the solution also depends on whether migrants will be provided with translators and French lessons, and whether reception centres will be far from administrative offices needed for asylum application. Also, the reception and attitudes migrants will receive in reception centres’ villages and towns across France will largely determine whether migrants decide to return to Calais and seek to reach the UK. However, the attacks in France in the past two years coupled with the migration crisis stoked anti-migration sentiment across the country, as illustrated by the attacks on several reception centres in the last few days.
Political consideration and changes could also impact the future of Calais and the Jungle. Indeed, Alain Juppé, the favourite to become rightwing “Les Républicains” presidential candidate demanded to overturn the border with Britain from Calais to British coasts and announced he will pressure the British authorities for a shared responsibility of the Jungle’s migrants as well as renegotiate the Touquet agreement. Juppé indeed argued: “We cannot accept making the selection on French territory of people that Britain does or doesn’t want. It’s up to Britain to do that job » (CNN, 2016).
The events in Calais therefore highlight the issues with the European migration system and evidence the EU is still torn between national interests. The EU has been too slow to react and foster cooperation between its member states, and often left civil society and aid workers be the ones to provide support to migrants and minor refugees living in the Jungle.
Reflecting on the experience of Calais, the EU must develop standards et the European level to monitor and sanction member states’ records of human rights violation. For instance, the EU must ensure children’s protection is a priority and is properly enforced in member states. Meeting in Strasbourg this week, MEPs adopted a resolution on October 25 aiming at putting an end to the crisis-driven and management approach to breaches of human and fundamental rights in European states through the development of a binding mechanism and enforcement instruments to report and record such breaches (see: Stur,2016). The mechanism will function along a panel of experts that will produce an annual report on the state of democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights in member states and European institutions, and will therefore be used for monitoring activities and sanctions. With the adoption of this new EU mechanism that will ensure European states’ respect fundamental rights, the EU proves it aims at addressing the ongoing cases of breaches of human rights and fundamental principles occurring along the migration crisis.
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