France: Police Attacking Migrants in Calais
(Paris) – French police in Calais routinely abuse asylum seekers and other migrants, Human Rights Watch said today.
The 40-page report, “‘Like Living in Hell’: Police Abuses Against Child and Adult Migrants in Calais,” finds that police forces in Calais, particularly the French riot police (Compagnies républicaines de sécurité, CRS), routinely use pepper spray on child and adult migrants while they are sleeping or in other circumstances in which they pose no threat.
Police also regularly spray or confiscate sleeping bags, blankets, and clothing, and have sometimes used pepper spray on migrants’ food and water, apparently to press them to leave the area.
Such acts violate the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment as well as international standards on police conduct, which call for police to use force only when it is unavoidable, and then only with restraint, in proportion to the circumstances, and for a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
“It is reprehensible for police to use pepper spray on children and adults who are asleep or peacefully going about their day,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, Human Rights Watch’s France director.
“When police destroy or take migrants’ blankets, shoes, or food, they demean their profession as well as harm people whose rights they’ve sworn to uphold.” The report is based on interviews with more than 60 asylum seekers and other migrants in and around Calais and Dunkerque, including 31 unaccompanied children, in June and July 2017.
Human Rights Watch also found that local authorities have responded to the return of migrants to Calais in increasing numbers by impeding their access to food, water, and other basic necessities.
A second court ruling, issued on June 26, directed authorities to provide migrants with access to drinking water, toilets, and facilities for showering and washing clothes, with 10 days to comply.
The Interior Ministry should also urgently remove obstacles to refugee protection, including by either establishing an asylum office in Calais or facilitating applications in existing offices.
Local and national authorities should ensure that unaccompanied migrant children have access to child protection services, including shelters with sufficient capacity and adequate staffing.