Natacha Bouchart makes embarrassing attempt to smear humanitarian aid efforts in desperate attempt to find a scapegoat for cities problems.
(This article was first published on “The Digital Warehouse” – January 16 2018)
Yesterday morning, the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart (LR) claimed that aid organisations were capitalising on the plight of the community of displaced persons living rough in the area. Appearing on BFMTV, she accused the associations of “using the migrants to exist”.
She continued her ludicrous claim:
“They [the aid organisations] have no interest in migrants finding comfort elsewhere because it is their purpose of existence.”
Bouchart’s desire to over-simplify the situational narrative of the Calais refugee crisis is indicative of the local authorities approach to the issue: ignoring the absolute failure to provide basic rights and turning a blind eye to systemic police brutality, while simultaneously levying blame elsewhere.
The efforts of aid organisations operating in the region have only come about due to the negligence of the local authorities forcing non-governmental agencies to take on the French state’s responsibility towards the protection of vulnerable people. With Emmanuel Macron visiting today, it seems that Bouchart is attempting a final push to shift the blame before the President himself arrives.
Whilst working on the ground in Calais, aid organisations have witnessed little to no attempt to provide people with: legal protection, safeguards for vulnerable people and children, adequate safe accommodation, and no information on asylum rights.
What aid organisations have witnessed are attempts to make living conditions as inhumane and as miserable as possible with regular unjustified uses of excessive force, violence and clearances of makeshift shelters.
Up to 700 people are currently living on the streets or in tents around Calais. Children are dying on the sides of motorways. Non-governmental organisations have seen outbreaks of entirely preventable medical conditions due to the living conditions people are forced into.
There is no static immigration office in Calais so people wanting to speak with Ofii (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) must wait until Ofii decide to show up and talk to them. According to the RRDP report “Twelve Months On”, 84.7% of respondents stated they did not have “access to information your rights and opportunities to change your situation.” Local NGOs have a phone number to call to request information from Ofii yet the line doesn’t seem to be in operation regularly, with many phone calls reported unanswered.
Three deaths and one nearly fatal accident in three weeks serve as an persuasive counter to Bouchart’s argument.
People would not choose to live in situations as grim as the one faced by refugees in Calais simply for the chance of a free meal and second hand clothing.
People live in these horrific conditions in Calais because of no desire on the part of the Mayor’s office to engage with the issue appropriately. This failure to acknowledge the extent of suffering felt by the displaced community in Calais is facilitated by both the French state and UK turning a blind eye to the tragedy.
Aid organisations in the area are providing humanitarian assistance and enabling people to survive. Natacha Bouchart only attempts to create “fake news”. This is simply a weak effort to create a smoke screen to distract from her total incompetence in dealing with the crisis since the dismantlement of the Calais refugee camp in October 2016, as well as Calais’ own economic downturn. Blaming migration for problems created by other separate issues is a common Right-wing tactic employed by politicians across the world.
Macron’s visit to Calais prefaces the French-British summit. Due to take place on the 18 January, Macron will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May. It has been widely reported that both sides have been renegotiating Le Touquet Treaty, the agreement which allows UK border checks on French soil.
The Telegraph reported yesterday that France has “strong-armed” the UK into “revising …border controls, upping financial contributions and creating a joint ‘operational task force’ to handle asylum requests from migrants in Calais.”
According to Le Monde, France is using the Calais crisis as a bargaining chip in the ongoing Brexit negotiations, proving once again human beings are nothing more than political currency to the current administrations of both countries.