22 January 2015
Asylum seekers and migrants living in destitution in Calais have told Human Rights Watch they have been abused by the French police. Migrants describe being beaten and attacked with pepper spray in the street or when they are found hidden in trucks in the hope of traveling to the United Kingdom.
“The police checked the truck and found me… I said, ‘please, help me’ but they beat me and I collapsed outside the truck. They kicked me on the ground”, Rosa, from Eritrea, told Human Rights Watch from a Calais hospital.
The authorities claim that pepper spray is only used to deter large groups from climbing onto trucks but migrants say it is also used in other situations. “They [the police] spray you like you’re an insect. It’s happened to all of us in the street”, said Mohammad, from Sudan.
Most migrants and asylum seekers in Calais are homeless and rely on food provided by local organisations and volunteers. The most common concerns cited by people living in makeshift camps were the cold and the lack of sanitation.
The majority of people interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they wanted to apply for asylum but some said they did not do so in France because of a lack of housing for asylum seekers, treatment by the police, and the length of the asylum procedure. According to Human Rights Watch, the asylum procedure in France takes over two years. A bill being discussed at the Parliament aims to reduce the procedure to nine months.
For further information:
- Human Rights Watch, France: Migrants, Asylum Seekers Abused and Destitute (Video), 20 January 2015.
- Asylum Information Database, Country Report: France, 1 December 2014.
- ECRE Weekly Bulletin, Migrants in Calais: Who are they and why do they see no option but to try to reach the UK, 24 October 2014