President focuses on migration situation in Calais

Migration – European Union – Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, to the forces mobilized in Calais (excerpts)

Calais, 16 January 2018

(…)

Franco-British summit agenda

I’m speaking to you two days before the Franco-British summit, and it was essential, firstly, for me to come and experience the situations you’ve been living through for several months, several years, to learn every lesson from them and to discuss with Theresa May, in 48 hours’ time, several of the points we must improve in our common management.

Handling the issue of unaccompanied minors more effectively, strengthening police cooperation in Calais and with the countries of origin and transit, and releasing funds to support important projects for the development of the Calais region: those are the three points we’ll be highlighting in 48 hours’ time in the dialogue with our British friends.

I’d like this visit to provide the opportunity to discuss the issues and challenges we must take up here, in a context which has certainly changed radically – and I’ll come back to this – but which has, for years, been one of severe migratory pressure. And I’ve come here to speak the language of truth. (…)

Calais security

The state’s tasks in Calais are known: to protect the border, guarantee the legal transit of people and goods between France and the United Kingdom, and ensure the security of people and goods.

Among those tasks, one fundamental challenge is to ensure the security of the two major infrastructures linking France and England – the Channel Tunnel and the port of Calais – and ensure that the border with the UK is controlled, Calais is made safe and its inhabitants protected in accordance with our international commitments. (…)

By its geography and position, Calais is a place of transit that has become a dead end for thousands of women and men who have sometimes spent months, years on roads that have taken them far from their countries. Everyone must know that everything is being done to make illegal crossings to the UK impossible. Calais isn’t a back door to the UK, and I want to be very clear here: that will continue to be the case.

Under no circumstances will we let illegal networks form or develop here; under no circumstances will we allow a new jungle or more land to be illegally occupied. I therefore want to address the police first of all, but also the state services, and tell you what I’m expecting of you in this context.

First of all I want to express to you the thanks and gratitude of our fellow citizens in Calais and elsewhere for the work you’re doing day in day out, night after night, an outstanding job which is little known, sometimes criticized and sometimes caricatured. (…)

In trying, every day of the year, to penetrate the protected sites of Eurotunnel and the port of Calais in order to get into lorries heading across the Channel, migrants risk their lives and those of others. In 2017, you thwarted 115,000 attempted intrusions into those sites and into the business zones in Calais and the surrounding area. (…)

An underground economy of clandestine crossings to the UK has developed, organized by structured, often violent people-smuggling rings which don’t hesitate to exploit migrants and which treat them as goods. In 2017 the border police dismantled 24 of those rings in the Calais area. I also want to pay tribute to their action here. The security forces are mobilized, as I was saying, both day and night, including in the darkest areas, where they have to intervene between 3.00 and 4.00 a.m., where policing operations are covered by the CRS [riot police], gendarmerie squadrons and officers from Calais police headquarters.

During these operations, there have been several injuries among your ranks: 24 of the CRS and two Calais police officers, most often from projectiles thrown during those checks.

The security forces are also having to face a modus operandi found nowhere else in France. I’m thinking in particular of the roadblocks set up at night to slow down lorries and get into trailers. The number of blocks on the roads leading to the port of Calais has very markedly declined since the camp was dismantled last year. In 2017, 41 roadblocks were set up, compared with almost one every day in 2016.

But on the ground you’re also observing an intensification of the modus operandi, the use of concrete blocks, poles, tree trunks and iron bars, which increases the risk of a serious accident every time. (…)

So your task in this region is out of the ordinary, because the situation is out of the ordinary. To fulfil it, the government is keeping a significant additional presence of 450 police and gendarmes, in the form of mobile officers, supporting local forces. In total 1,130 police and gendarmes are present in the Calais area.

In addition to these civilian resources, a 30-strong section from [Operation] Sentinelle has been posted to the Calais region to ensure the security of sensitive sites. Every day you carry out random patrols at the Eurotunnel site, the port of Calais, the TGV [high-speed train] station in Fréthun, the town centre and Calais’ [Cité] Europe shopping centre.

I also want to pay tribute, Minister, to the effective action of customs officers, cooperating fully with the work of all the security forces that I’ve just drawn attention to. (…)

Setting an example means absolute respect for police ethics and absolute respect for rights. I know that respect for these rules is central to your tasks. I can’t let credence be given to the idea that the police exercise physical violence, confiscate personal belongings, wake people up in the middle of the night, or use tear gas at water stations or when meals are being distributed. If this is done, it’s contrary to all ethics. If it’s done and proven, it will be punished. (…)

The police must ensure that the law is implemented effectively. If migrants don’t accept the proposals for shelter that are automatically made to them by the state services, if they refuse to have their fingerprints taken as required under the Dublin Regulation, if they commit infringements, particularly by damaging lorries or private property, they have full knowledge of and responsibility for what they’re doing.

Reception of migrants

So we owe them this message of truth: remaining in Calais, building makeshift shelters in the undergrowth and the marshes, sometimes in squats – such things lead nowhere. The alternative is clear and transparent: it involves accommodation at reception centres where everyone’s situation will be examined extremely closely, particularly those applying for asylum in our country. (…)

Accommodation in Calais and the surrounding area is organized, and it’s organized according to the rules, with humanity, with clarity, but also with order that we’ve defined and intend to enforce. The initial results of the action under way for more than a year are tangible. Since the Jungle was dismantled 8,200 people’s situations have been examined at reception and guidance centres, and some have gone to reception centres for asylum seekers. That exceptionally large-scale operation was carried out at national level at the end of 2016.

And in the Pas-de-Calais [department], and particularly for all people who arrived from the Calais Jungle, the government has put in place a unique experimental mechanism to organize the accommodation we want to ensure here. There will be no rebuilding of any jungle and no tolerance of any illegal occupation of public or private space in Calais or its surrounding area.

By contrast, reception centres where the administrative status of individuals is examined [CAESs] were set up in August 2017. Following the speech I made in Orléans on 27 July, three centres were opened in the Pas-de-Calais and two in the Nord [department]. This morning, together with several of you, I visited the CAES in Croisilles; it is a full part of this mechanism. And it honours the commitments I made. Accommodation is provided there, unconditionally. (…)

I want to pay tribute collectively and individually to all those women and men who put this action into concrete, effective practice and enable us to organize this unconditional reception – French lessons from the outset, a human presence, a human welcome – and carry out the administrative procedures much more quickly than before.

Quality care requires this structured cooperation with the local authorities. And here I want to emphasize how important this provision is when we’re talking about unaccompanied minors. A specific reception mechanism has been established to provide decent accommodation and appropriate social support to everyone who wants it. During 2017 just over 2,200 foreign people declaring themselves to be minors were sent from Calais to be looked after at the child protection centre situation in Saint-Omer, some 30 kilometres from here, in a department that takes in 6,000 minors every year.

The number of minors concerned is testimony to this: it was nearly twice as high in 2017 as in the course of 2016, even though the number of people involved is markedly lower, as I was recalling earlier. So today there’s a very special concern for this department when it comes to unaccompanied minors. (…)

I also want to recall at this time that, nationally, we’re facing a growing number of arrivals, throughout the country, of foreign unaccompanied minors: nearly 25,000 in 2017, mainly from Africa, and so, in addition to this challenge in the Calais region, we’ll clearly be making a structured response.

As you can see, full provision for reception and care has been established and organized – it’s no longer passive – and we’ll stick to this. Quality care for people in the streets depends on rounds organized by the government, through the voluntary organizations, allowing us direct contact with those people, because I also know the concern, and like you I’ve seen the scenes and I know that many people see it on a daily basis, the voluntary organizations I’ll be seeing shortly and the town’s services too, who take us to see scenes where a lot of women, a lot of men are still hidden in the undergrowth, in squats and in the street.

On this subject, we’re going out to make contact: organizing the rounds is the way to bring them to the reception centres I was talking about just now. And we must continue developing this humanitarian, explanatory approach. (…)

We’ll always champion the voluntary organizations which, working in partnership with the government and local authorities, go out and make contact, provide basic services, protect, explain and enable support at the reception centres. That’s how the government organizes the rounds with the voluntary organizations: additional government funding has been allocated to France Terre d’Asile, which is the operator for this mission in the department. There’s now a team of seven social workers who are intervening, in constant contact with those people. (…)

So yes, quality care is ensured through additional finance released by the government, and it’s only natural, Madam Mayor, for the government to be present on this issue, because the town has already taken on a great deal. Showers, sanitary facilities, water stations, access to treatment, organized and regulated. The state is doing this, thanks to all the stakeholders present here, in liaison with these voluntary organizations and social workers, who are doing it in an organized framework. The state is funding this.

The state is funding it; 30 people are taken in every day on average, at the permanent office for access to treatment and healthcare at Calais hospital. (…)

And I want to tell you very clearly this morning that we’re providing all these services, but there’s one, today, which we don’t yet provide: food, meals, are currently provided by voluntary organizations. So I’m going to tell you very clearly that we’re going to take responsibility for this, but we’re going to take responsibility in the same way, in an organized way, with mobile [food] points, without tolerating any illegal camps and by urging all those who are ready to finance this provision to contribute to its funding in the framework organized by the government, and with the government. (…)

Our policy is clear: we must guarantee everyone is taken in under decent and humane conditions, and particularly given shelter when it’s necessary. We want to provide everyone with a rapid response. We must give those who are granted residence a real chance to integrate. But we must ensure that those who are not granted it do return to their countries, once they’ve followed the appeal routes opened up to them.

Migration and asylum policy

For so many years we’ve been doing everything the wrong way round, taking in people indiscriminately, taking unacceptable periods of time – much longer than all our European neighbours, 18 months on average to obtain asylum; in some regions it’s more than two years – and we haven’t been investing enough to fully integrate those who obtain residence permits, asylum or long-stay permits, or repatriating those without the requisite documentation.

The policy implemented since last summer is to put all this in proper order, firstly through a responsible international policy: a policy of cooperation and discussion with the countries of origin and transit, the policy established on 28 August 2017 in Paris, with the African Union, several African countries of origin and transit, the European Union and several European countries, to enable us to send OFPRA [French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons] missions that will protect and grant asylum to women and men from Niger and Chad eligible for it, preventing them from spending years, sometimes, in camps in Libya, or crossing the Mediterranean at their own risk, but also enabling us to return to their countries of origin those women and men with no chance of gaining access to protection of any kind in Europe. This work is being organized with and by the European Union, in partnership with the [French] International Migration Office and the African Union. It has begun to produce results. It will be long, patient work, but presupposes close cooperation with all the Gulf of Guinea states and those in the Sahel-Saharan strip, stretching as far as Libya.

It’s also clear that the action we’re taking to bring political stability to Libya will provide a lasting solution for ending what today is organized trafficking in women and men, the final result of which is experienced here but plays out internationally. France is taking coherent, determined, vigorous action on this.

Secondly, we need to establish a consistent European policy, because in many cases we’re experiencing inconsistencies and inadequacies of European policy. (…) The Dublin system as it stands is full of inconsistencies; at any rate, it isn’t satisfactory today.

So I understand the criticisms made by those who want to end the Dublin system and that of the state responsible for asylum applications, and replace it with a system where asylum applications could be lodged in any European state. In the short term, this solution can’t be envisaged because it would end up taking responsibility away from all the countries of entry. What we’ve got to do is organize a European policy that is more mutually supportive externally and internally and thus have more resources at border checkpoints, greater coherence when it comes to policy outside our borders, as I’ve just talked about, and bring our systems for granting asylum and our rules into line with one another, and ensure that a single, integrated checkpoint system is deployed. This is under way, but things are moving too slowly.

States must continue to be held accountable, but today we’ve got to ensure things are managed in a more harmonious way within the European Union; through this progress we’ll be able to move towards a European asylum office, which is what we’re aiming towards. This is why I’d like us to speed up work on deploying a single, completely secure system for identity checking and complete information-sharing between European states in the Schengen Area. That’s why we’ve got to give ourselves every means to ensure greater convergence between our legislation – this is the very challenge of the European negotiation under way, which I hope is concluded quickly. And we’ll draw all the necessary conclusions from this at national level.

The overhaul of our asylum and immigration policy, through the bill put forward by the Ministre d’Etat, aims precisely at the greatest convergence with our main European partners, especially Germany. We’ve got to speed up the time it takes us to process asylum applications. I’ve talked about an average of 18 months; we must reduce it to six, because we owe those applying for asylum in France that protection. (…)

I made commitments and we’ll see them through and honour them. And in terms of emergency accommodation, since July 2017 we’ve been pursuing a previously unknown target: 143,000 state-funded places are open to provide accommodation every night for those in need, compared to 126,000 this time last year.

This year we’ve devoted over €2 billion to emergency accommodation for vulnerable people. For asylum applicants, we’ll create an additional 4,000 places in 2018 and a further 3,500 in 2019, to reach a total of 88,000 by then – i.e. twice as many as in 2012. For refugees, we’ll be making 20,000 accommodation places available by the end of 2018, creating a specific mechanism for access outside DALO [enforceable right to housing], and 5,000 more in temporary accommodation centres for the most vulnerable refugees in 2018-2019.

The state will step up tailored support for the most vulnerable refugees. I’m thinking of women refugees in particular. From next week, an interministerial delegate for the reception and integration of refugees will be appointed at the Council of Ministers’ meeting. (…)

I want to pay tribute here to the commitment of the region, the department, the town and the many other towns I was talking about earlier, which are partners here.

It’s this Republican spirit which will keep us on course and enable us to make headway, because that’s what our fellow citizens expect of us. They expect order, decisiveness when necessary and humanity at every stage; they don’t expect declarations. They expect us to roll up our sleeves and take action on the ground with those who represent the Republic and advance its ambition every day.

But the state – and I’ll conclude on this point – will also be active when it comes to the area’s future. It’s what we owe the Calais of today and tomorrow. An area with tremendous assets, which we must capitalize on together. I mentioned them earlier when I was talking about the region’s assets, its geographical situation, its place in European trade, its place logistically, economically, industrially and in terms of services and fisheries.

Calais/Brexit

On this issue, I know the region’s interests in the very specific context of Brexit. (…)

I also know how worried many in the fisheries, manufacturing and logistics sectors of the economy are; they are wondering about the possible repercussions of Brexit. The region’s interests will be taken fully into consideration as part of the discussions and negotiations France will conduct. (…)

All these sectors obviously need to be fully taken into account. Whatever the future developments and relations are between the European Union and the United Kingdom, the area will and must remain attractive on this front. (…)./.

Published on 26/01/2018

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