In a visit to Calais, French Home Secretary Gérard Collomb announced police reinforcements, poked fun at asylum seekers, and seemed to contradict President Emmanuel Macron.
CALAIS – Gérard Collomb, the newly appointed French Home Secretary, made a visit to Calais on Friday (23/06) and said he would be announcing a new national asylum strategy within two weeks.
Striking a far sterner tone than President Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Collomb praised the police for acting with “plenty of conscience and humanity” towards Calais migrants, who – he quipped – are not famed for their “gentleness.”
This despite years of accusations of police violence, which he described as “completely overblown.”
Nine refugees recently decided to lodge an official complaint about police violence to the IGPN – the body which supposedly monitors the French national police – and regular reports and videos of French police blocking food distributions have called the French authorities’ tactics into question.
The Mayor of Calais Natalie Bouchart banned food distributions to refugees several months ago.
Eight months after the demolition of the Jungle, Mr. Collomb is keen to avoid building another camp and rehousing the 5,000 or so people living in the Calais area. He believes this would create a “pull factor.”
On the same day, Emmanuel Macron said that France “must welcome refugees” as a “duty” and an “honour” in a joint press conference with Angela Merkel in Brussels.
Perhaps, says Libération, this betrays a difference of opinion. Or maybe it is the result of a pre-planned good cop-bad cop arrangement.
Macron the humanitarian, Collomb the hard-nosed enforcer.
Having said the region’s NGOs should “use their savoir-faire elsewhere,” Mr. Collomb announced that he would soon outline a plan to “deal with the asylum problem.”
François Guennoc, joint-head of the Auberge des Migrants charity, said that even “regarding the minimum expectations,” the Home Secretary had given them “no response.”
Jean-Claude Lenoir, President of the charity Salam, said he left his meeting with Mr. Collomb “demoralised.”
“All he said regarding Calais was that he wanted no more ‘fixation points.’”
Migrants had become “embedded” in Calais, said Mr. Collomb, which had become a “fixation abscess.”
He said that he didn’t want to build any more “centres” in the area to avoid “history repeating itself.
“We start with a few hundred people and end up with several thousand that we can’t manage: every time we build a centre, we create another ‘pull factor.’”
‘All the same Calais is only 30 kilometres from the British coast, which – for thousands of forced migrants – remains their “El Dorado.”’
Last year, France received 85,000 asylum claims, far fewer than Germany or Sweden.