Refugees living in Calais facing repeated police evictions have been left “exhausted, scared and not knowing which way to turn”, a humanitarian charity has warned.
Aid workers in northern France say the forced moving on of refugees is fuelling attempts to cross the English Channel in small boats.
They say recent weeks in the French port city have been “unbelievably tough” and that people there “only want to be given the chance to rebuild their lives”.
Hundreds of refugees live in various camps along the French coastline, often in desperate conditions that have only been made more dangerous by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Care4Calais is a charity that delivers aid and support and campaigns for a welcoming and inclusive attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers.
Speaking to the PA news agency, founder Clare Moseley says refugees are “not in any way a threat” and called for compassion.
She said: “I have been in Calais for five years and yet every day I hear new stories from people who have lost their families in conflicts, suffered torture under harsh regimes or been cruelly persecuted for political or religious beliefs.
“They never chose to leave their homes and everything they know; migrants are forced to flee by terrible events beyond their control.
“Priti Patel’s calls for more action have resulted in daily police raids that leave people exhausted, scared and not knowing which way to turn.”
She has previously criticised tactics used by French police – including the use of tear gas.
The charity has launched an emergency appeal to help continue its work: https://care4calais.org/emergency-appeal/
Moseley told PA that more areas have been fenced off and people are having to sleep on bare tarmac and under hedges.
She added: “They don’t understand why they are treated in this way; they have broken no laws and done no harm, and only want to be given the chance to rebuild their lives.
“The people here in Calais are turning to us for help and I believe there are a great many people across the UK who do care and do want to help them.”
Moseley fiercely criticised proposals to deploy the Royal Navy to the English Channel in response to the small boats crisis.
She said: “Sending warships to meet traumatised migrants is not the response of a civilised nation.
“They are exhausted, scared and defenceless. They are not in any way a threat.”
The Home Office has officially asked the Navy for help and a former Royal Marine has been appointed “clandestine Channel threat commander”.
Calais MP Pierre-Henri Dumont previously told the PA news agency that he believes there is “no link” between the evictions and attempts to cross the Channel.
He said the huge number of people trying to reach the UK is down to “British law and way of life” and said refugees would rather live secretly in the UK than claim asylum in France.
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