Activists from the Secours Catholique/Caritas France agency have opened an aid centre for Britain-bound migrants returning to Calais, angering local officials and leading to a skip being left to block the entrance.
Vincent Deconinck, a spokesman for Secours Catholique, had previously complained that officials had refused to establish a publicly-funded shelter in the French port as they feared it would encourage migrants to flood back into the area.
“We are shocked and outraged by the government’s decision”, Deconinck said at the time. “These people fled their war-torn homelands in search of a better life. And no, an emergency shelter will not make Calais more attractive to migrants. Calais is and always has been the main gateway into Britain.”
Janice Atkinson MEP, who visited the Jungle in 2016, described it as a place “where economic migrants are taught to be refugees by middle-class gap year students”.
Top immigration judge Bernard McCloskey has also conceded that many migrants travelling to the UK via France, a wealthy G7 country, are “probably not refugees in any general sense … Rather, they are migrant nationals of a number of countries outside the European Union, who, while intending to make a claim for refugee status, decline to make the claim in France due to perceived advantages [in the UK].”
Secours Catholique’s decision to open its own “mini aid centre” angered local officials, who have adopted a “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal migrants. The Daily Mail reports that the entrance to the centre has been blocked by a large metal skip, to prevent its facilities from being upgraded, but a judge in Lille has ruled this action “manifestly unlawful”.
The old Jungle settlement near Calais was officially demolished in late 2016. Initially, this led to an expansion of the dangerous “wildcat encampments” which have sprung up on the streets of Paris. But reports now suggest hundreds of migrants are heading back to Calais as they did following previous failed attempts to evict them.
“Too few illegal immigrants were deported after the Jungle was demolished,” complained Mayor Xavier Bertrand in January 2017. “The migrants who should have been sent back home in November have returned and are currently setting up new makeshift tent camps on the outskirts of town.”