Update from Barbara Kentish
Westminster Justice & Peace Commission lead on Migrants and Refugees:
Awaited for over a week, the Préfecture of Pas de Calais has finally designated six centres in the region to house migrants, estimated between 8-1200, living rough in the surrounding dunes and woods of Calais. On Friday, 3 April, around 100 were taken by bus to a requisitioned holiday centre in Merlimont, not far from the Normandy beaches. At the moment transfer is voluntary, with enforcement considered only as a last resort, the operation being envisaged to last over two weeks. In the centres, all in the Pas de Calais area, migrants will be subject to the same Covid 19 regulations as the rest of the country. Already two had tested positive for the illness earlier in the week, and were moved to flats designated for isolated care.
With 400 places identified so far, and a staggered process of transfer, Juliette Delaplace of Secours Catholique protested that this was not sufficient: “At this rate people will only be sheltered 12 days from now, when we have already been at stage 3 of the coronavirus epidemic for three weeks. It completely ignores the emergency, and sanitary needs. This neglect of exiled people on the North coast is inexplicable.”
The State-led operation aims to take control, for humanitarian reasons, of a ‘population without shelter’, whose presence around the outskirts of Calais poses ‘serious public health problems and challenges to the peace’. It is in the ‘national framework of public isolating policy’ according to the regional government.
Other NGOs, such as Amnesty International, Emmaus, Cimade and Doctors without Borders are also concerned. NGOs have been prohibited from circulating amongst the encampments so that hunger and lack of supplies has been reported. In Grande Synthe, Dunkirk, measures are also expected, but at the moment some voluntary agencies have managed to deliver supplies.
Original report on Independent Catholic News