75% Calais refugees have experienced police violence, far-right attacks – survey

© Pascal Rossignol
Three-quarters of refugees in the ‘Jungle’ camp near the French port town of Calais have suffered violence at the hands of police, including instances of sexual abuse, a refugee charity operating in the city claims.

Research by Help Refugees indicates nearly half of the French port’s refugees have also experienced violence committed by citizens, mostly at the hands of far-right groups.

Surveys conducted by the Refugee Rights Data Project in partnership with Help Refugees found a majority of refugees have experienced “bad” or “very bad” treatment at the hands of police.

It also found that most refugees are experiencing health problems in the Jungle, some of which are related to the camp’s unsanitary conditions.

As French police remain determined to close off a large section of the refugee camp, charity Help Refugees surveyed 800 residents in the largest independent data collection project carried out in Calais to date.

Some 73 percent of those surveyed said they have experienced police violence during their time at the Jungle.

Some 41.1 percent said they have been exposed to tear gas, 28.3 percent reported physical violence, 16.7 percent reported verbal violence and 1 percent sexual violence.

Nearly 70 percent of all refugees surveyed described their treatment by French police as “very bad” or “bad,” while 45.4 percent have also experienced violence at the hands of French citizens.

Some 1.4 percent of refugees said they have experience sexual violence by non-police.

In a sign of how desperate many refugees are to reach Britain, some 2-3 percent of respondents surveyed said they would consider killing themselves if they are not allowed to submit asylum claims in the UK or if their temporary homes are destroyed.

The vast majority of refugees, 92.6 percent, said they want to go to Britain, citing reasons such as having friends or family in the UK or possessing English-language skills.

In the event the entire camp is demolished, 82.3 percent say they will stay in Calais or simply don’t know what they’ll do.

Refugee Rights Data Project Marta Welander said the survey’s results demonstrate how European authorities have failed to treat refugees with respect.

This data demonstrates that the French and British authorities have so far failed to treat people residing in the Calais camp with dignity and respect,” she said.

Help Refugees founders Lliana Bird and Josephine Naughton said they remain “deeply concerned” with the treatment of refugees in Calais, in particular the children.

Violence against vulnerable people is wholly unacceptable, and we are grateful to the Refugee Rights Data Project for shining a much needed light on this issue,” they said.

We remain deeply concerned for the physical and mental wellbeing of the refugees in Calais, in particular the 423 unaccompanied children, and believe that the French and British governments’ continued failure to provide residents with any clear information regarding their rights and options only serves to add to their trauma.