URGENT: Stop Destruction of Calais Migrant camps and mass deportations
Posted by clandestina on 20 July 2009
[ 19. Jul 2009 ]
URGENT: Stop Destruction of Calais Migrant camps and mass deportations
Migrant camps threatened with clearance at Calais 21st July 2009. Mass deportations to Afghanistan planned for 24th July, widespread human rights abuses imminent.
Open statement about Calais situation to all concerned
Please forward and reply to calais.witnesses (at) googlemail.com, adding your name below.
We are writing to a number of organisations, which we understand operate in different ways and have different remits. We have prepared this statement, below, which we are asking groups and individuals to sign, as well as inviting both your suggestions and your urgent intervention to avert this crisis, in any way that you are able to.
According to humanitarian groups in Calais, up to 2000 individuals in the Calais region of northern France are under imminent threat gross violations of human rights because of their status as migrants. Following the announcement on 6th July, 2009 of a joint Anglo-French agreement for £15 million  to strengthen the French UK border, humanitarian groups in France have been notified that an official date, this Monday 20th July, 2009, has been set by French authorities to clear and destroy the makeshift camps that migrants have been forced to live in in already appalling conditions. This will fundamentally affect these people’s right to safety and will undoubtedly traumatize and destroy the few possessions that they have. Official plans for people once their dwellings have been destroyed are still unclear but we are informed by Calais-based, French humanitarian organization, ASSOCIATION SALAM , that proceedings have begun by the French government as part of the Franco-British Agreement to charter mass deportation flights  to Kabul and Iraq. While UK immigration Minister Phil Woolas boasts of a “ring of steel that protects Britain”, there are many individuals in Calais who are simply seeking safety and are trapped by a European immigration policy that is denying basic human rights. Without urgent intervention that there is very real threat of mass refoulement  of asylum seekers back to countries of origin from which they have fled and where they could face torture, imprisonment and in some cases death.
In the wake of the clearance of migrant camps in Patras, Greece and in Paris we believe that strong condemnation of these plans and independent observers and monitors in Calais are urgently required. We call on you to pressure the British and French authorities to respect their international obligations to provide protection under the Geneva Convention and respect human rights. We demand the immediate cessation of any attempts to clear and destroy refugee camps as well as plans to deport migrants to who have a right to seek asylum in Europe.
Last November, two charter flights to Afghanistan were cancelled thanks to the mobilisation of all. DON’T LET THIS CHARTER OF DEATH LEAVE!
Laura Maragoudaki, Alice Cutler, Calais Witnesses 
To support this call, please send a message with your name or the name of your organisation to calais.witnesses (at) googlemail.com
 The UK has promised France £15m for border protection in return for help deporting immigrants
 On 4 July 2009, in her article for the Guardian newspaper, Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, wrote: “The conditions for the migrants in Calais are atrocious. They are camped on waste ground and in squatted houses in the town, they queue each day for soup kitchens provided by local volunteers, and have little access to facilities as basic as running water. Included in this group are unaccompanied children. It is to all our shame that they are left to live in such appalling circumstances.”
For a comprehensive report on the humanitarian crisis at Calais, please see the 2008 Report by Coordination Francaise pour le Droit D?Asile (in French), at:
A short summary of the report in English is also attached below.
 Please see featured announcement by ASSOCIATION SALAM on 16/07/09 at: http://associationsalam.org/infos/index.php?Infos-salam English translation attached below.
 On 5 November 2008, the UK and French governments? attempts to carry out a mass deportation to Afghanistan through a joint charter flight were overruled by the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that the operation would violate article 4 of the European Declaration on Human Rights, which forbids the “collective expulsion of foreigners”, as well as the trilateral agreement signed in 2002 by UNHCR with the Afghan and French governments, which stipulates that “the return of Afghans who do not enjoy protection… will be carried out in a gradual, ordered and humane way”. In an open letter to then interior minister Brice Hortefeux, MEP Hélène Flautre highlighted the risk that the repatriations would entail as “irreparable”, referring back to the recent case of an Afghan, Mohammed Hussain, who was repatriated by Australia and ended up being kidnapped, tortured and finally beheaded.
 The 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits the return of refugees “in any manner whatsoever” to places where their life or freedom would be threatened [otherwise referred to as Article 33; the nonrefoulement provision of the Refugee Convention]. As explained by the UK House of Lords, “Article 33 can be breached indirectly as well as directly. Thus for a country to return a refugee to a state from which he/she will then be returned by the government of that state to a territory where his/her life or freedom will be threatened will be as much a breach of Article 33 as if the first country had itself returned him there direct.”
Many of the migrants in Calais will have travelled overland through Greece or Italy, where they will have had their fingerprints taken. Under the Dublin II convention they would be removed to Greece or Italy on claiming asylum in France or the UK. The likelihood of an Iraqi getting asylum in Greece is 0% (UNHCR, 2007). http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/47302b6c2.pdf Therefore they are being denied their right to seek protection. Crossing a border without the right papers is not illegal if you are doing so to claim asylum.
In addition, the Greek government frequently carry out non-official forcible returns from Greece to Turkey. Most take place under cover of darkness across the Evros River or off the Turkish coast. Pushbacks at sea or on the border do not nullify the nonrefoulement obligation and migrants deported to Greece face a high risk of being forcibly removed to other ?non-safe? countries outside the EU. (Human Rights Watch 2008)
 CALAIS WITNESSES is a network of individuals who work towards supporting rights for refugees and migrants and have first hand experience of witnessing the situation for migrants at the UK French Border of Calais. Many of the individuals involved have witnessed human rights abuses experienced by migrants trying to reach Britain including police harassment, forced destitution, inhumane and degrading treatment.
Tel: +44 (0) 7884 040683
P.O. Box 1TA
Newcastle on Tyne
calais.witnesses (at) googlemail.com