The Calais “Jungle”
Many illegal immigrants into the EU have congregated around Calais in an endeavour to get to the UK (or “England” as everyone conveniently calls it). This has caused great distress to the people of Calais – some 8,000 people living in unsanitary conditions right on their doorstep. It also causes real problems to those trading between France and the UK, and of course to holidaymakers who do not want to run the gauntlet in order to get to their destinations. Many businesses in Calais have closed or re-located, and visitors now use other ports to get to either France or through to the UK.
The French and British agreed a protocol called the Le Touquet Treaty in 2003. This was completely independent of the EU. It allows UK border officials to be located in Calais in order to carry out border checks more conveniently – this arrangement suits both countries as it eases trade and provides a small relief for genuine refugees.
The decision of the UK to leave the EU has no effect on this arrangement – though of course it has been used as a bargaining chip by vociferous French politicians who have recently claimed that if the UK is leaving the EU, then the border will effectively have to move to Dover and the Jungle residents would set up camp here in the UK. This is, of course, both completely spurious and impractical as France would have to “encourage” or “allow” the Jungle residents to come here, and the UK would, as they are illegal immigrants, be perfectly entitled to send them straight back for processing.
France often states that the immigrants are trying to get to the UK so essentially they are the UK’s problem. This is not a true reflection of the legal position but it is a powerful emotive argument to use for French consumption.
The new Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and her counterpart in France, Bernard Cazeneuve, have ordered a fresh review of security in Calais and confirmed they will continue with the treaty under which British border checks are carried out on French soil, confirming the position that the treaty is not affected by Brexit.
If we go back to the two main principles which cover this type of situation as set out by the UNHCR and the Dublin Regulation within the EU, the legal position is quite clear. Refugees are defined under the Refugee Convention – and I will leave it to you to decide whether the majority of the residents of the Jungle are in fact fleeing a country where they are in danger of their lives, or merely looking for a better life elsewhere. Either way they are currently illegal immigrants and under the Dublin Regulation, adopted in 2003 by the EU, their asylum application should be examined by the state where the asylum seeker first entered the EU. This may be France (many of the residents are of North African origin so may have entered through southern France) or another country such as Greece or Italy. What is very clear is that they have not entered through the UK, so are not the responsibility of the UK authorities.
The French authorities have been under enormous pressure from the residents of Calais town, and the local council, to find a definitive solution to the problem, and they recognise that to try to offload the residents of the Jungle to the UK is not only against the law but would also encourage thousands of new migrants to come to Calais for the final leg of their intended journey to England. This would exacerbate, not ease, the problem. So the French have decided to bulldoze the camp and transport the residents to other parts of France (though not in that order….). These are the scenes we are seeing today with buses taking the residents away from the jungle.
Let us not forget the moral obligations of developed and rich countries in respect of migrants (either genuine refugees or economic migrants) to house at least some of them. This is the basis of the argument currently raging in the UK whereby we have agreed to take a number of unaccompanied children but their ages are suspect and many are considered to be well over 20. Many commentators are also suggesting that the “unaccompanied children” label will only encourage families to send their children on a dangerous journey across Europe in the hope of the UK taking them and then the rest of the family joining later on.
Has bull-dozing resolved the issue?
Not really. EU migration policy is a real mess, as we saw a little while ago. There is no security of the border, and no agreement as to what to do with the people already here and continuing to arrive. The Schengen Agreement is not being followed (with birders going up and checks being made), nor the Dublin Regulation (migrants are being transited through countries, not processed), and talk of quotas runs completely contrary to the idea of free movement. Policy (if it can be said to be that) is in disarray, and is essentially being adopted differently by different countries in mainland Europe to suit their own circumstances and demands of their populations.
I may be very cynical here, but I am asking the question “why has France chosen to act so decisively and so soon after the Brexit vote?”. The country has adopted a very different stance for the last 10 years, yet now chooses to send the residents of the Jungle to other parts of the country. Could it possibly be that they will quietly be given French citizenship away from the glare of publicity, i.e. in small rural areas of France rather than in Calais, which would allow them to come to the UK as EU citizens? The speed of the French reaction gives them about 2 years to bestow citizenship on the Jungle residents which is ample time, and it won’t be done with anyone watching, or in large numbers. It would effectively solve the problem from the French point of view, and the residents would simply “disappear” in the UK when they arrived so there is no chance of them returning to French soil. I hope I’m wrong…..
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