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Police Abuses Against Child and Adult Migrants in Calais

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Police Abuses Against Child and Adult Migrants in Calais

28th July 2017


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Nine months after French authorities closed the large migrant camp known as the “Jungle,” on the edge of Calais, between 400 and 500 asylum seekers and other migrants are living on the streets and in wooded areas in and around the northern French city.

Based on interviews with more than 60 asylum seekers and migrants in and around Calais and Dunkerque, and with two dozen aid workers working in the area, this report documents police abuse of asylum seekers and migrants, their disruption of humanitarian assistance, and their harassment of aid workers—behaviour that appears to be at least partly driven by a desire to keep down migrant numbers.


Human Rights Watch finds that police in Calais, particularly the riot police (Compagnies républicaines de sécurité, CRS), routinely use pepper spray on child and adult migrants while they are sleeping or in other circumstances in which they pose no threat; regularly spray or confiscate sleeping bags, blankets, and clothing; and sometimes use pepper spray on migrants’ food and water. Police also disrupt the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Police abuses have a negative impact on access to child services and migrants’ desire and ability to apply for asylum.

Such police conduct in and around Calais is an abuse of power, violating the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment as well as an unjustifiable interference with the migrants’ rights to food and water. International standards provide that police should only use force when it is unavoidable, and then only with restraint, in proportion to the circumstances, and for a legitimate law enforcement purpose.


Authorities have turned a blind eye to widespread reports of police abuse against asylum seekers and other migrants. Vincent Berton, the deputy prefect for Calais, strongly rejected reports that police used pepper spray and other force indiscriminately and disproportionately. “These are allegations, individuals’ declarations, that are not based on fact,” he told Human Rights Watch.

Report by the Human Rights Watch

  • Police Abuses Against Child and Adult Migrants in Calais
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