Seeking Sanctuary: Concerns about the clearance of the Calais ‘Jungle’


CSAN charity Seeking Sanctuary have released a statement concerning the planned demolitions in Calais next week:

Seeking Sanctuary says, ‘Be more cautious’.

As reported by Independent Catholic News on 7 October 2016, an agency of the French Bishops Conference has cautiously accepted the general thrust of government plans to dismantle the Calais camp and relocate its refugees, saying that the plans are “going in the right direction.” A spokesman commented that, “We hope that this operation will go well, as announced, in respect of individuals, and that they will then be welcomed and supported in the reception centres, without being considered as mere administrative records.”

Monday 17th October is the current best guess for the start of destruction of the “jungle” and relocation of its over 10,000 inhabitants – 10% of them unaccompanied minors.

The plans may appear sound, but France’s track record in implementing government plans is poor. The “evacuation” of the southern part of the camp in May was supposed to proceed with calm, with due respect for human rights and without the use of force. Instead a considerable force of riot police arrived with their usual supplies of tear-gas, backed up by bulldozers and people were instructed – in language that many did not comprehend – to immediately leave their dwellings or be forcibly evicted. A mosque and a church were demolished and attempts to observe and record events were harshly prevented. No record of names and locations of under-age youngsters was made, with over 100 disappearing without trace.

There has been a persistent tendency to be late in delivering extra accommodation, to under-estimate the number of residents and to reach out to young people. Some people were dispersed to some excellent facilities and many others to places that were truly dreadful – remotely located, without adequate resources, and with little or zero experienced support for those making asylum applications.

This time, the riot police are more numerous; we do not know the numbers of places that have been found for dispersal, how well they are resourced, and whether or not they are sufficient (given the poor records of official head-counts); there are still no records of unaccompanied minors and there is no word about the provision of appropriate shelter and safeguarding for them. In fact there have already been several protest demonstrations against the pending arrival of the dispersed migrants in various towns, some of them led by local mayors.

Aid agencies Emmaus and Secours Catholique have condemned the proposals saying that everything suggests that “the mistakes of Sangatte” will be repeated, with a confrontation developing. The rapid expulsion “can only be brutal”, says Vincent de Coninck of Secours Catholique, who refused to be “complicit” with the plan with which the agency “strongly disagrees”. “This is a security operation”, he says, “humanitarian only in name. Not only will the exiles be hunted down, but the result will increasingly be zero.”

For us, the uncertainties outweigh the certainties, and we must register our concern that the camp clearance operation will be hurried and inadequately and inappropriately resourced. We ask people to pray that we are wrong. Whatever the outcome, 10,000 exiles will still need humanitarian aid somewhere in France!

For more information, please visit the Seeking Sanctuary website.