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Refugees at Calais camp suffering police violence: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Refugees chat outside their tents in the “Jungle,” the biggest makeshift camps to spring up along the northern French coast, in the port town of Calais, on March 30, 2016. ©AFP

More than three quarters of refugees and asylum seekers living in the Calais refugee camp, known as the Jungle, have been subject to mistreatment at the hands of French police, a recent report reveals.

The report revealed that 75.9 percent of the 870 individuals surveyed have cited various forms of police violence, including physical violence as well as sexual and verbal abuse, The Independent reported.

It further disclosed that 54.1 percent of the respondents said they “never feel safe,” 67.6 percent said they resort to “using blankets or burning rubbish to keep warm,” and 76.7 percent reported suffering from various diseases mainly due to the camp’s “unhealthy environment.”

Moreover, residents of the Calais refugee camp are “incredibly vulnerable” as the site is considered unofficial and data about it is not collected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), according to the report.

“Our first-hand data collection study is the first of its kind to reveal a significant selection of facts and figures about one of the biggest refugee camps in Europe,” said Marta Welander, founder of the Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP).

The RRDP corroborated the findings of the report conducted by 20 academic researchers in February.

French riot police keep watch during the end of the dismantling of the southern part of the so-called “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, northern France, on March 16, 2016. ©AFP

“We hope that this data can help inform the public debate, and guide policy-makers closer to achieving a sustainable, efficient resolution to the current humanitarian crisis unfolding in Calais,” it added.

Josephine Naughton, co-founder of Help Refugees UK, also said “it is shocking that vulnerable people escaping terror, conflict and persecution arrive in the safety of Europe only to face further human rights abuses. We are grateful to the Refugee Rights Data Project for shining a much needed light on this issue.”

“We remain deeply concerned for the physical and mental well-being of the 4946 refugees in Calais, in particular the 294 unaccompanied children, and believe that the French and British governments’ continued failure to provide residents with clear information regarding their rights only serves to add to their trauma,” She added.

 A man sits next to a placard in the northern part of the so-called "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, northern France, during the end of the dismantling of the camp's southern part, on March 16, 2016. ©AFP

French officials started demolishing the southern part of Calais refugee camp at the end of February, and forcibly evicting thousands of people from the site using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon. The dismantling of the camp’s southern part ended on March 16.

According to a census by Help Refugees UK, 129 unaccompanied minors from the camp have gone unaccounted for since then.

There are reports that 4,946 refugees are still living in the Calais “Jungle” camp, including 1,400 in the shipping containers set up by the French government.

Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees who are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.

Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in those regions, forcing more people to flee their homes.

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