Calais migrant camp to be dismantled soon - President

Calais/migration/port redevelopment – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)

Calais, 26 September 2016


I wanted – and thank you for inviting me – to lay the first stone of “Calais 2015”. It’s a project which has taken time, and I imagine that when it was set for 2015 this was so it could be launched in 2015: it’s nearly a year late, probably more. (…)

What’s happening here, in the context we’re aware of, which I’ll come back to – the migration situation –, is a major investment. Major for Calais, major for the department and the region, and major for France. This is the leading French port for passengers and goods, and this is the largest port project, with a new line being built – nearly three kilometres –, a new dock, the extension of the platforms – which are even going to stretch out into the sea – and the creation of new quays. (…) This investment, as you’ve pointed out, will create many jobs: 2,000 a year over the project’s duration and more than 1,700 once it’s been completed. This infrastructure will enable us to strengthen France’s interconnection with all its European neighbours. (…) The port of Calais is situated on one of the nine corridors of the Trans-European Transport Network, directly linked to the Benelux countries, northern Europe, central France and southern Europe; it’s also a considerable investment in financial terms: €850 million, 30% financed by public funds, with work entrusted to a grouping of construction firms led by Bouygues. (…)

It’s now being subsidized to the tune of €100 million by Europe as part of an interconnection mechanism, and it will also benefit from the guarantee provided by the Juncker Plan. (…)

“Calais Port 2015” is a wager won: you’re involved, we’re involved, and it’s a great project for employment, economic activity, the region and the country. For the town, as you’ve said, Mayor, it’s a hope – a hope that can’t be dashed, a hope that can’t be crushed, hampered by a migration situation which Calais has experienced for too long and which means that when people talk about Calais today they’re talking about the migration situation, when instead we should all be expressing the pride you voiced when mentioning the port and the economic activity it can generate and the investments we’ve just announced here.

So I also came to Calais this morning to confirm the decision I’ve taken with the government – Manuel Valls, Bernard Cazeneuve and Emmanuelle Cosse – to dismantle what’s known as the lande de Calais [makeshift camp] definitively, entirely, rapidly – i.e. by the end of the year. I spoke first of all to the security forces, who have done an admirable job in recent months to ensure the protection – as far as possible – of the Calais area’s population, to ensure that trafficking and people-smugglers can also be combated and we can apprehend and bring to justice those who commit unacceptable acts against individuals or economic stakeholders.

Two thousand one hundred police and gendarmes: those are sizeable resources. (…)

Here in Calais, 7,000 migrants are settled in the camp; their numbers may have varied in recent months and we may have thought the migration crisis might calm down so that we could deal with the issue of the camp over time. That’s no longer the case today. Today it’s a question of the complete dismantling of the camp by the end of the year, and this operation must be conducted with humanity, responsibility and dignity, because that’s our duty. A very clear message must also be sent, and I take the opportunity I’ve been given to utter and deliver it: Calais is neither a stage nor a final destination for migration. It’s a blind alley: no further travel is possible and there will no longer be any. All the more reason, then, to stop letting these women, men and children live on top of one another – in sub-standard, precarious conditions, despite all the developments we’ve been carrying out for several months.

So the dismantling of the camp is a twofold duty of solidarity: solidarity with the refugees, who must be accommodated with dignity, and solidarity with the people of Calais, who can’t be subjected to such pressure. So as you’ve said, Mr President, the whole country must shoulder this responsibility; all France, the whole of France must play its role in dealing with the very difficult issue of refugees.

So dismantle the Calais camp only to create inextricable situations elsewhere? Certainly not! Dismantle the Calais camp only to let the migrants return to Calais and settle again in conditions we’ve seen in the past? Certainly not! We must take an orderly approach. If we want the Calais camp to be dismantled, it’s so that no more migrants settle there again, so we’ll have the police there as long as necessary and protection measures as strong as necessary, because they’re essential for ensuring that no migrant camps and no makeshift shelters whatsoever are built again in Calais.

Likewise, we must also ensure that these migrants who are going to leave Calais are accommodated in decent conditions elsewhere, for a limited time, before they can go to asylum-related accommodation. That’s why the government has announced and already set up reception and guidance centres. There are 164 of them in 80 departments; this has also enabled us to remove some 5,000 people from Calais in recent months.

What’s a reception and guidance centre? It’s a centre of manageable size set up on existing premises, wholly funded by the government, for 50-60 people. (…) At each centre there’s support so that administrative procedures can be carried out. This, incidentally, is what the migrants are doing: 80% of those who are in Calais are eligible for asylum. They’re not economic migrants, they’re migrants eligible for asylum.

In order for us to succeed with the complete dismantling of the Calais camp in the timeframe I’ve set – by the end of the year and as soon as possible –, the préfets [high-ranking civil servants representing the state at departmental or regional level] have received very precise instructions from the Interior and Housing Ministers. Nine thousand places, in addition to the ones I’ve talked about, will be created at the reception and guidance centres. Every migrant in Calais will be offered an accommodation solution. They’ll be accompanied to the place where they’re expected to be not only registered but present to carry out procedures. No staying put will be tolerated. (…)

Likewise, the British – they have a presence here, and I greet them, albeit in French – will be expected to play a role. Commitments have been made by the UK government, particularly on the issue of minors. They must be not only honoured in full, but built on, in the framework of the definitive closure of the Calais lande. What’s called the Le Touquet agreement – which governs relations between France and the UK on this migration issue, including for Calais – was signed in another era but is today binding on us, and it’s constantly being debated, clarified, built on, negotiated, and we’ll continue to do this, because we must each shoulder our responsibilities, and the UK even more so insofar as this situation exists. It would be too simple – and I won’t engage in this exercise – to tell those who are in Calais to go to the UK! If we gave in to what people think is a position, it would ultimately very greatly increase [migration] flows to the UK. Then it wouldn’t be thousands who would come, it might be even more; everyone must understand that. That’s why we need rules, and that’s why those who are in Calais will be distributed across France, at these reception and guidance centres.

Nevertheless, this policy isn’t defensible or even acceptable unless there is genuine, fair firmness shown towards migrants who aren’t eligible for asylum and must therefore be deported from the country, and must know [this]. If they’re here they know that the law will be applied; if they’re not here, they must be warned. We can’t agree to there being migrants who aren’t eligible for the right of asylum. This is why we’ve got to combat illegal immigration, by border controls – which have produced significant results: 40,000 [people have been subject to] non-admission measures –, and by fighting against trafficking and people-smugglers, who must be handed firm sentences. (…)

Everything will be done. Everything will be done by the end of the year. I’ll be back, with the government, after the Calais camp has been fully and completely dismantled, so that there’s no doubt about our intentions and our determination.

The nation’s solidarity towards Calais must also be extended to include economic issues. This topic was discussed several times throughout the morning, and was already behind the regional development contract signed in November 2015 with the Regional Council, the Departmental Council, the Communauté d’agglomeration [a council which groups together several communes] and the town of Calais. It represents a commitment by the state of €50 million between now and 2020. I’d like to announce here that half of this €50 million will be paid by the end of 2017. It aims to support economic activity, employment and the area’s attractiveness, Calais’ image, its power, its strength. As part of the area’s development, €2 million will be paid, in the next few days, to finance the Heroic Land project, [work] on the seafront and high-speed broadband coverage for the business park. For transport, more than €3 million has been ringfenced for the A26 motorway project. This will be carried out, and as soon as possible. (…)

A fund has been set up to help businesses in difficulty in Calais and the surrounding area. It was announced that €2 million would be allocated; this will be doubled and benefit businesses, because as soon as there’s a drop in a company’s activity, in its turnover – potentially as much as 20% or 30% – things must be taken into consideration. (…)

It’s about justice for the Calais area, but it’s also a sign of confidence, because, I’ll come back to this, we’re investing so much money – €850 million for the port, having this regional development contract, supporting major infrastructure projects, and I’ve mentioned them, whether it be the airport or transport, freight – not to come and relieve pain, here in the Calais area, not just to do our bit in the solidarity you’re owed, but because it’s a choice for France. (…)

We’re going to take a decision, an important one, to shut down a camp. But I didn’t want to just calm things down or come to support the people of Calais; I wanted to deal with the situation of these men and women, these children in this camp, in a dignified manner. I didn’t want France’s image to be distorted in any way, because France’s influence extends worldwide and no one can say that it authorizes camps and leaves them for months on end in conditions not in keeping with those required by dignity and humanity.

That’s why Calais is a symbol, a symbol of suffering, but above all, today, a symbol of hope, an opportunity for France. Long live the Republic, long live France, long live Calais!./.

Published on 21/10/2016

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