24. April 2017 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „Refugees beaten, abused and tear-gassed as they sleep by police in Calais, report warns“ · Kategorien: Frankreich · Tags: , ,

The Independent | 24.04.2017

Exclusive: Broken limbs, facial injuries and severe bruising found to be ‘typical injuries’ sustained by unaccompanied minors at the hands of officers in Calais, research finds

Refugees sleeping rough in and around the Calais area are subject to “endemic” levels of police brutality on a daily basis, an alarming report has revealed, amid concerns that the region is on “police lockdown” in efforts to deter refugees from the area.

Research published exclusively by The Independent shows that displaced people, including scores of unaccompanied children, are experiencing routine violence, with some reporting having limbs dislocated as a result of police beatings, while others had tear gas sprayed directly in their faces.

One 22-year old Palestinian male said police had sprayed tear gas directly into his face, broken his glasses and injured one of his eyes. A 17-year-old boy recalled being beaten by police in the middle of the night when he was alone, while another, aged 16, said he had been sleeping with some others in the woods when police ordered them to move, and began “hitting his legs with batons” when they obeyed.

In the largest independent study to be conducted in Calais since the demolition of the Jungle migrant camp, the Refugee Rights Data Project surveyed about 53 per cent of the refugees in the area, and found that authorities were taking a “heavy-handed” approach against displaced people, warning the situation was “particularly harmful for children”.

The local authority in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region has responded by saying the allegations of police brutality – which it said officers in the area are “regularly accused of” – are “unfounded”.

There are an estimated 400 refugees and displaced people residing on the streets of Calais and the surrounding areas at present, with half of them said to be underage. The numbers have increased in recent months, as unaccompanied minors have been returning to the area after accommodation centres they were transported to after the Jungle demolition started to close.

The vast majority of respondents (89 per cent) said they had experienced police violence during their time in Calais and the surrounding region, with 82 per cent describing police treatment in France as “bad” or “very bad”. Of these, 84 per cent had experienced tear gas, 53 per cent other forms of physical violence and 28 per cent verbal abuse.

One respondent reported that his shoulder was dislocated by the police, while another explained that his fingers had been dislocated in a similar fashion on a separate occasion. Among female refugees, who make up about eight per cent of the displaced people in the region, a 27-year old Eritrean woman said she had been beaten by the police when she was trying to board a bus, while a 22-year old Ethiopian woman told researchers: “[The police] pushed me to the floor and beat me.”

Ninety-seven per cent of the 89 children surveyed said they had experienced police violence in the area, with 79 per cent reporting being targeted with tear gas, 57 per cent with physical abuse and 21 per cent with verbal abuse. Such attacks were reported to be fairly routine, with two in every 10 children saying they were attacked with tear gas every day, and 41 per cent saying it occurred many times a week.

The report found that while a significant proportion of the police violence is targeted at children as they try to go to the UK, there was also an alarming number of instances of unprovoked police violence – notably unaccompanied youngsters being woken up from where they are sleeping and told to move. Ninety-two per cent of respondents said this had happened to them, with 77 per cent of these describing it as a “violent” incident and 55 per cent saying they “felt scared” when it happened.

An Eritrean boy, aged 17, told researchers: “Once in the middle of the night they threw tear gas on us, while we were sleeping under the bridge. Another time in the middle of the night, two police officers chased me and beat me with a baton and kicked me.”

Similarly, a 17-year old Sudanese boy reported: “France police beat me in the middle night when I was alone,” while another said: “[The police] recognise me by my hair and they always come after me. They beat me up almost every day. I have had tear gas sprayed on me several times.”

The report also found that in a recent development, police are reported to be using tasers on refugees. One 16-year old respondent from Eritrea reported that he had been tasered when the police found him in the port area, while another boy explained that when he came out of a lorry voluntarily, police gave him an electric shock.

Temporary detention of unaccompanied minors also emerged as a routine occurrence, with three quarters (75.3 per cent) of children having been arrested or detained in the area. One Eritrean teenage boy told researchers how he used to have a paper that proved that he was under 18, but the police ripped it and detained him for more than 12 hours without letting him go to the bathroom, and then beat him.

As well as violence from the authorities, researchers also found that children were experiencing violence and abuse from local citizens. More than half (59 per cent) said this was the case, which is a higher figure than in Feb 2016 when 49 per cent of residents in the Jungle had experienced it. Of these, 66 per cent described it as verbal abuse, while 56 per cent said they had experienced physical violence.

A number of respondents separately reported that members of far-right groups (referred to by many respondents as “the fascists”) circulate in the Calais area and seize opportunities to attack individuals who are alone.

An Afghan respondent explained: “It’s dangerous to be on your own, because fascists beat you up,” while another reported: “My friend was hit by a black car with loud music, hit from behind, he had his shoulder broken and then the driver escaped and no one mentioned anything.” Citizens are also known to follow refugees around with video cameras and flashlights.

The findings have been backed up by testimonies heard by The Independent of people working closely with refugees in the area. Sue Clayton, who has spent time in Calais recently, said police were on “lockdown” in the area, and told of police raids being carried out during the day in an apparent attempt to identity and detain refugees.

“Calais is in police lockdown. I went recently to talk to some unaccompanied minors that I support, who have nowhere to sleep after recently coming back to Calais after the centres where the French temporarily housed them closed,” Ms Clayton said.

“I arranged to meet them in a cafe in Calais town known to be sympathetic to refugees, to find it being raided by police – at ten in the morning. We ran off down a backstreet but could see more police patrolling at the next junction, so we bundled into a corner store.

“The shopkeeper immediately picked up what was going on. ‘It’s like an occupied town,’ he said. There’s nowhere to go as the police ruling is that refugees can walk the streets, but cannot ’s’installer‘ – meaning ‘install themselves’. The police policy of arresting them and taking them to the holding centre for up to four days solves nothing.

“Now that neighbouring Dunkirk has gone too, there is literally nowhere, nothing for these children – for whom the UK and French governments jointly and publicly professed responsibility as they faced the world’s press last year in the smoking ruins of the Jungle.”

A separate report published on the same day by the Refugee Youth Service (RYS) states that instances of police brutality are “common”, particularly at night, with children reporting being beaten and sprayed in the face with pepper spray to RYS staff members on a “regular basis”.

The study, called Somebody’s Child and based on research by the charity during 2016, cites “twisted ankles, broken limbs, facial injuries and severe bruising” being “typical injuries” resulting from childrens’ interactions with the police after they were caught attempting to make informal border crossings to the UK.

Cases were largely under-reported, it states, due to fear of reprisal or the perception of a negative affect on any pending legal processes for asylum, while the lack of an independent reporting system meant that police officers were generally not held accountable for violent actions.

It also cites a failure by police to facilitate access to protection for unaccompanied minors on other dangers they face, such as cases of sexual exploitation, trafficking and issues around missing children – in some cases refusing to take reports of missing children or take a report about potential grooming of a child by phone.

Nearly half (42 per cent) of the children interviewed said they had family in the UK, suggesting they may be eligible for reunification under the Dublin regulation. But three per cent of the children who applied to join their family under this legal mechanism were refused, while 19 per cent did not receive any result, and the rest are yet to access the system, the report showed.

In light of the findings, Marta Welander, director of Refugee Rights Data Project, said: “The well-known camps in Calais and Dunkirk are gone. However, our latest research findings show that hundreds of children remain in the area – many alone, scared, and facing life-threatening dangers on a daily basis.

“It’s time for the UK government to stop trying to conceal this problem with fences and barbed wire, and adhere to its moral and legal obligations to protect these vulnerable children.”

Michael McHugh, Refugee Youth Service France coordination and child protection officer, said the report shows a “critical child protection failure” has taken place in the Calais area, urging for “courage and leadership”.

“The research findings highlight a critical child protection failure on European soil. Without access to family reunification processes or support to access French and European protections systems vulnerable young people will end up staying in unsuitable conditions for lengthy periods and remain at risk of violence, exploitation or sadly being lost from the system,” he said.

“Whichever side of the asylum discussion or political spectrum one sits, it is sadly apparent that our existing asylum systems are not fit for purpose. Courage and leadership are needed to review and strengthen our existing child protection systems to respond to this border crisis.

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