The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales has today published a report on migrant camps at Calais and Grande-Synthe in France, highlighting allegations of police violence, police failure to protect residents within the camps, and a lack of access to justice.

BHRC representatives visited the Jungle and Grande-Synthe camps in March 2016, meeting with residents and NGOs working within the camps, including Médicins San Frontières, the UN and Help Refugees UK.

The report highlights specific allegations of police violence documented by the Legal Advice Centre in Calais, which include:

  • An Iranian child aged 16 who was taken by French police to a field outside Calais, where he and others were forced to kneel down in a line before being beaten repeatedly with truncheons
  • A British volunteer who was pushed, slapped and strangled by police, and had a tear gas canister shot at her face, while attempting to document camp evictions
  • An Eritrean man who, when complying with a police request to get down from a lorry, was kicked and hit by officers and had tear gas sprayed in his face.
  • Police inaction in response to other violence targeting camp residents, including a gun battle between rival people-smugglers in the former camp at Dunkirk, and “citizen violence” against refugees in the town and port areas of Calais.

The report also underlines the high levels of overall police violence within the camps: a recent study by the Refugee Rights Data Project found that 76% of camp residents (and 82% of women) reported experiencing violence from the police, while 70% had been exposed to tear gas. Of the 700 children in the Calais camp, 78% of whom are on their own, over 61% reported “never feeling safe”.

BHRC also draws attention to a lack of adequate legal advice or legal observers within the camps, which has contributed to misinformation amongst residents, and an inability to properly track or document human rights violations.

BHRC has called on the French government to set up an independent investigation into allegations of police abuse and neglect of power in the camps, and for further human rights monitoring to be put in place urgently.

Speaking on behalf of BHRC, Chairwoman Kirsty Brimelow QC said:

“The lack of effective legal protections in the Jungle and Grand-Synthe for vulnerable refugees, including women and children, should be of huge concern.

The UK and French governments must jointly ensure accountability for all human rights violations inflicted on camp residents.  The treatment of refugees is one of the historic wrongs of our time. It is happening on the shores of Europe. Urgent action is required.”

Read the full report here

(Image credit: malachbrowne via flickr)