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29 Jul, 2017 21:05

'Second Calais' grows in France as Macron pledges to rid country of migrant camps

Violence, alcohol abuse and reports of rape have become a daily routine for people in and around an illegal migrant camp in the town of Metz in north-eastern France, where "a second Calais" is said to be emerging.

Reports of appalling living conditions have been emanating from Metz, where hundreds of migrants have set up camp. Although the illegal site has been dismantled several times, more people arrive and start it all up again.

"The city of Metz was not prepared for the camp. The authorities emptied it, but now there are 700 refugees back there again. It's becoming a second Calais," a concerned local woman told RT's Charlotte Dubenskij.

"This problem has to be addressed quickly, for their sake as well as for us," another local woman said.

Even aid workers don't feel safe at the camp which has been dubbed a "humanitarian slum."

"There is a problem with alcohol and violence. Even as an aid worker, I've faced problems. They don't have food, but they manage to get hold of alcohol. We don't know how to handle the situation. There is not enough security for the number of people here," an aid worker at the Metz camp told RT.

Locals say the many problems at the site are being downplayed by the authorities.

"There are a lot of home break-ins. A lot of aggression. They snatch women's handbags, but no one talks about that on TV," a local taxi driver told the RT crew while driving them to the camp site. "The migrants are everywhere in Metz," he added.

Security guards at the camp interfered with RT's filming, saying they didn't "want journalists here."

"People here are hiding from those who are looking for them in their own countries," a guard claimed.

This week, French president Emmanuel Macron unveiled an ambitious plan to rid the country of its migrant camps and to better accommodate refugees in the coming months. 

"The first battle is to house everybody in a dignified manner. By the end of the year, I want no more women and men in the streets, in the woods, lost. It's a question of dignity, a question of humanity but also of efficiency. Everywhere where the emergency housing is built to welcome them, I want administrative steps for their cases to be examined," Macron pledged at a ceremony welcoming some of France's newest citizens.

READ MORE: French police ‘routinely’ pepper spray innocent migrants, incl. children, in Calais - HRW

France has struggled with refugee camps for years. One of the most infamous of these, the so-called "Jungle" in the port of Calais was dismantled last year, but migrants are still reportedly arriving at the illegal site. Human Rights Watch says over 400 people are now there, but other estimates say it could be up to 600.