Calais Jungle refugees targeted by armed far-right militia in brutal campaign of violence

Exclusive: Migrants accuse local police of failing to protect them from the beatings – and carrying out their own assaults

Members of an armed far-right militia are attacking Calais migrants in an unprecedented, brutal campaign of violence, according to evidence seen by this newspaper. In a series of incidents in recent weeks, refugees living at the Jungle camp claim to have been targeted by organised thugs – sometimes in uniforms. 

The Independent was told of one attack in which young male refugees were taken by van to a field where they were stripped naked and had their hands cuffed behind their back. They were then made to watch as their abductors – a group of unidentified men – beat them individually.

Migrants accuse local French police of failing to protect them from the beatings – and also carrying out their own assaults.

A coalition of NGOs, legal advisers and charities has decried both an increase in incidents of police aggression and the rise in attacks on refugees by groups of civilians, thought to be racist gangs.

The claims are outlined in a report compiled by staff at the camp’s legal centre,  along with the British charity Care4Calais, which is to be submitted to the state prosecutor. It included 10 testimonies of violence, eight at the hands of police and five by civilian groups. 

Many of the accounts are corroborated by medical reports from international humanitarian organisations Médecins sans Frontières and Médecins du Monde. Four videos thought to be included in the report have been seen by The Independent. One shows a 16-year-old Afghan boy whose arm is in a cast saying he was forced into the back of a van and taken to a field where he was beaten by a group of men. His arm and two fingers are broken. A similar account is given by another 16-year-old boy who refers to the unidentified men as “fascists”. 

Shakespeare's Hamlet played out at Calais 'Jungle' refugee camp

Marianne Humbersot, head of mission at the camp’s legal centre, said she has about 50 accounts in total which bear striking similarities of violence at the hands of “policemen and a certain civil militia of which we do not know the exact identity”.

She said: “We are talking about injuries that are life-threatening. Not just bruises but also stabbing, strangling and beating with metal sticks. These attacks are against men, women and children. Minors. I have the account of a 10-year-old boy who has been subjected to police violence. I have a 13-year-old who was beaten by police – and 10 days before he had his nose broken by ‘racists’.”

Concerns around these attacks have increased in the past month. The local region came close to electing Front Nationale leader Marie le Pen in the recent elections. But the Care4Calais report forms the most comprehensive evidence of systematic violence against refugees at the hands of suspected right-wing militias. 

While there is no suggestion that the police have worked with the group, many have accused them of failing to protect migrants as they hope to soon clear the camp. On Friday, the local police prefecture announced a large area of the camp, home to 800 to 1,000 people, would be bulldozed next week.


Migrants in Calais’ Jungle camp 

For the camp’s inhabitants, awareness of far-right groups has been heightened following a hostile political march held in early January that ended in clashes. Many migrants said they know people who have been attacked by these groups. Ali-Muhammad Jumar, 23, from Sudan was one such case. He had a broken finger and a fresh cut above his left eyebrow that he said were the result of being beaten the previous night by police near the Eurotunnel train tracks. “There are racists in Calais who beat people with sticks,” he added. 

MSF and MDM both confirmed they had heard accounts and issued medical reports that corroborated the testimonies in the report. 

“Most of the injuries are head trauma with bruises and face lacerations, some needing stitches,” said Marlene Malfaid, MSF medical co-ordinator for the camp. She added that the agency sees about 12 incidents a week of people who have been victims of violence. In the past week alone, they have had a dozen reports, eight regarding police violence and four of “non-police” attacks. 

Isabelle Bruand, Nord-Pas-de-Calais regional co-ordinator for MDM, said: “What we see now seeing is targeted violence: groups who are targeting immigrants in the area near the camp for no reason other than simply to beat them. We don’t know who these people are. Some people say they are beaten by civilians. Some tell us they are beaten by groups of the CRS [the French riot police] and other policemen.

“These groups of civilians feel organised. In some cases they have weapons and they seem to come with the idea of ‘we will go to the camp and find some immigrants to beat up’.”