Calais At Breaking Point

The conditions in Calais refugee camps for the estimated 1,500 migrants have reached a breaking point. What is worse for the refugees is that there has been an increased number of asylum seekers attempting to gain access through the Northern border of France. There has been an increase in the number of children because of the Dubs Amendment that was introduced in 2017. While a more open dialogue has been provided about welcoming refugees, increased security at the borders suggests otherwise.

Maddy Allen, field manager at Help Refugees, said: “Securitisation measures have really gone up since the attention on the migrant boat crossings in November. They’ve fenced up under the bridges where people used to sleep. Walls have been erected around the petrol station. It looks like a prison.” British Prime Minister Theresa May used the Easter holiday to discuss the issue of refugees. Posting a video to her social media account on Twitter, the PM stated, “We must stand up for the right of everyone, no matter what their religion, to practise their faith in peace”. However, with Calais reportedly at ‘breaking point’ and more refugees entering the camps, the real conditions for refugees need to be assessed. Maddy Allen later stated that “the rate of people trying to cross hasn’t slowed down. They are still here. People are pitching their tents on the side of the motorway. They’re sleeping in the surrounding area but they’re just further into the margins of society. They’re deep in the forest, deep in the landfill sites, deep in the sand dunes, just very hidden.”

There have been reports of an increasing number of lone children entering Calais. Those who are fleeing are leaving their homeland because of a fear of persecution, and with this, they lose everything. It is the basic duty of the government to give the refugees asylum. Instead, the asylum seekers are met with an unorganised system of processing, an unequal system of asylum and an instant hostile environment from their recipients. There needs to be a deep overhaul of the European system of asylum. It needs to be made universal across Europe, and the governments need to stick to their policies and stay compassionate and understanding of these people who are in need of asylum.

The increased number of lone children arriving is partly because of the Dubs Amendment. Introduced in 2017, the aim of the amendment to the Dublin III regulation was to make sure families were no longer split up in the refugee process. This meant that refugees living in Calais who had family members in the UK had a right to apply to come over here to join them. But there were many unaccompanied children in the Calais camp, who did not have families here. So, the U.K. launched a scheme to enable a number of unaccompanied children to come to live safely in the U.K. – even if they did not have a straightforward family link here. This is the reason for the increased number of child refugees.

Marta Welander, director of Refugee Rights Europe, said: “It seems the general approach of the British government is to remove what they believe are so-called pull factors – that if they create a hostile environment in the border zone, people will stop coming.” Sadly, the government’s stance on the refugees is hitting the most vulnerable. Instead of focusing on the perceived crisis, the government is failing to help those who need it the most. In turn, it’s creating a deeper them and us ideology that is based in policy and therefore, violating the human rights of those who are already fleeing their homeland. Refugees, especially children are left stateless and destitute and it is unfair to do so. There needs to be an emphasis on children, women and men as people, not refugees and the negative connotations attached to the word.