By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
CALAIS, France – Amidst continued criticism of his treatment of France’s migrant issue, French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to the port city Calais, a center of the country’s migrant problem, to defend his policies.
Before Macron was elected in May 2017, he campaigned as a supporter of migrants. At the time, his opponent was staunchly against allowing migrants into the country.
However, since his election, critics complain that Macron has betrayed his supporters by allowing continued expulsions of migrants and police crackdowns targeted at migrants.
The coastal city of Calais has become a symbol of France’s migrant problem. Upwards of 700 migrants are currently in the area, most hoping to make it to the United Kingdom by way of the English Channel.
Calais was once home to a migrant camp of 7,000 people that became known as the “Jungle.” The camp was dismantled in 2016.
During his visit, Macron outlined France’s stance toward immigration and asylum. He maintained that those entitled to be in France will be given shelter and support, while those who are in the country illegally will be expelled.
“To stay in Calais and build makeshift shelters and even set up squats is a dead end. The alternative is clear; people can get to the reception centers where everyone’s case will be examined and those who have the right, given asylum in our country,” Macron said in a speech while in Calais.
In his speech, Macron also called for French law enforcement officers to act with respect towards migrants. According to a Human Rights Watch Report published in the summer of 2017, French police “routinely use(d) pepper spray on child and adult migrants while they…[were]… sleeping or in other circumstances in which they pose(d) no threat.” Although Macron discredited some accounts, he maintained that if the alleged abuses did occur that they will be punished.
Macron has worked to establish checkpoints overseas in order to separate economic migrants from asylum seekers. Those who are seeking political asylum are given priority over those seeking entry into the country for economic reasons.
A new migrant policy is expected to be released next month. Plans will be unveiled to quicken the application process for those seeking asylum as well as expel those who are in the country illegally faster.
France received over 100,000 asylum applications in 2017. Approximately 85,000 migrants were refused entry into the country.
For more information, please see:
BBC News – France Will not Allow Another ‘Jungle’ Camp in Calais, Says Macron – 16 January 2018
The Guardian – France Will not Allow Another Refugee Camp in Calais, Says Macron – 16 January 2018
The New York Times – Macron Defends Migration Policy in France, Walking A Fine Line – 16 January 2018
The Washington Post – France’s Macron Pushes Back Against Angry Allies to Defend Crackdowns on Migrants – 16 January 2018