The court condemns France for the harsh treatment of refugees who forced them to flee to Great Britain
Judges have condemned France for its “degrading and inhuman” treatment of refugees in a damning, historic verdict.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) said the French authorities were ‘failing to fulfill their duties’ to support those who applied for asylum in the country, leaving them sleeping on the streets for months in’ constant fear of being attacked or robbed. turn into’. ‘.
The criticism came after three asylum seekers accused the French government of failing to comply with its own national law, which requires the state to provide basic needs such as food and shelter while refugees await a decision on their asylum application.
French police detain a migrant during the dismantling of an improvised refugee camp in Calais, France
The ECHR ordered the French government to pay the three men a total of £ 32,000 in damages.
News of the ruling comes as British and French charities accuse police in Calais of perpetrating violence against migrants, the attacks being another factor persuading them to take the dangerous journey across the Channel.
Aid workers claim that French riot police now regularly raid migrant camps, cut their tents with knives and confiscate their belongings.
Police have also been accused of attacking migrants in the street, and videos posted on social media appear to show agents dragging migrants from buses.
Tensions ran so high that a group of Eritrean refugees wrote an open letter containing eight alleged examples of violence by officers, including assaults that left migrants with broken limbs.
The ECHR case involved a Russian, an Afghan and an Iranian journalist who had to wait up to eight months for the French authorities to acknowledge that they had made asylum applications.
Without such formal recognition, the men, who had not been identified by the court, could not apply for housing or social assistance benefits and were constantly at risk of deportation.
Judges heard how the Iranian, 46 years old, slept roughly on the streets of Paris for six months before he was granted refugee status.
The Afghan, 27, slept under canal bridges in the capital for about eight months before finally gaining access to shelter and a benefit known as ‘temporary allowance’.
The 30-year-old Russian slept rough for six months in the southwest French town of Carcassonne. Each of the men was forced to survive on charity donations.
In a blunt judgment, the ECtHR found that “the French authorities had failed to fulfill their duties to the applicants” under national law.
‘They had to be held responsible for the conditions in which the asylum seekers had been living for several months: sleeping rough, lacking access to sanitation, lacking means of subsistence, and being constantly afraid of being attacked or robbed …
Man poses with placard while attending a rally called by migrant aid collective Appel d’Air to protest administrative policies towards migrants, which they say translate into daily evacuations from migrant camps and increasing police brutality.
So the applicants had been subjected to degrading treatment and showed no respect for their dignity. It had aroused in them feelings of fear, unrest and inferiority that would likely lead to despair. ‘
It is not the first time that the ECHR has criticized the treatment of asylum seekers by the French government. Last February, judges ordered nearly £ 15,000 to be paid to an Afghan migrant who had lived alone as a 12-year-old in a makeshift migrant camp in Calais.
The French police has gradually stepped up its efforts to clean up migrant camps. Charities say there are about 2,000 people living in the Jungle camp in Calais or in GrandeSynthe, an area outside of Dunkirk, at any one time.
The camps are used as staging points for gangs to smuggle people into the UK in the back of trucks or small boats.
Poppy Cleary, a British aid coordinator at the charity L’Auberge des Migrants, said French police have doubled the number of attacks on refugee camps in Calais in recent weeks. She claimed that tents had been destroyed and that belongings, including clothing and medicine, had been seized.
“They then take the migrants by bus from Calais and leave them there, so they have to find their own way back,” she claimed. “Police treatment is another factor why so many migrants make the trip across the Channel.”
In one incident, two men, apparently African migrants, were filmed while being dragged from buses by police in Calais.
And in their letter, Eritrean migrants said the CRS [riot police] “Don’t think we’re human … they started threatening our lives by hitting us every time they got the chance.”
Last night, the French police in Calais and the French embassy in London were not available for comment.
But Pierre-Henri Dumont, Member of Parliament from Calais, defended the police, saying ‘there is no link between the decommissioning and the border crossings’, which he attributed to the fact that it is’ easier for migrants to live clandestinely in the UK, to to work and find a place to live ‘. , then in France. ‘