Charities warn Afghans face dying in freezing temperatures in Calais

Conditions have worsened for thousands of people sleeping rough in Calais and Dunkirk

Laurie Churchman
Monday 10 January 2022 22:25 GMT
A camp in Calais, which has seen freezing temperatures
A camp in Calais, which has seen freezing temperatures (Getty Images)

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Afghans who fled the Taliban face dying in freezing temperatures in Calais, according to charities in northern France.

Around 2,000 people including 300 unaccompanied children are now sleeping rough in Calais and Dunkirk. Among them are refugees who left Afghanistan after the US withdrawal.

Conditions for those hoping to cross to the UK are worsening, NGOs have warned, with harsh winter weather, challenges providing basic supplies, and police ramping up efforts to expel people from makeshift camps.

Footage posted by the monitoring group Human Rights Observers appears to show officers equipped with riot shields clearing a camp.

It came amid what the organisation called a “day of eviction operations” in Calais.

The extreme cold is just one of the dangers those in the camps face, according to Imogen Hardman, operations manager for the charity Care4Calais, which has been providing tents, sleeping bags, boots and warm clothes.

She told The Guardian: “Police are evicting every 48 hours. Trees are being cut down and land cleared across a lot of different living sites, meaning that people have no shelter and the land becomes more muddy.

“We are seeing an increase in the Afghan community here, people who fled after the Taliban took over have now arrived in Calais.”

Most of the people the charity helps have come from Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Others in northern France have fled persecution in countries including Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen and Somalia.

In November, at least 27 people drowned in the deadliest Channel crossing on record, including pregnant women and children. Most were from Iraqi Kurdistan.

Last week, volunteer groups on the ground warned thousands of displaced people in Calais could be left without basic support after a celebrity-backed charity withdrew funding.

They said they are “worried for people’s lives” after Choose Love announced the financial support it has been providing since 2015 would stop.

Louis Woodhead, facilitator with Calais Food Collective, told The Independent: “The lack of certainty about future funding means we will have to start rationing how much food we distribute.

“People here are already exposed to police brutality, human rights abuses and have no safe way to claim asylum in the UK. It is already a humanitarian crisis and if we’re forced to cut services the situation is only going to get worse.”

The Home Office is currently facing legal action over proposals to turn people in small boats around at sea.

Campaigners say the proposed ‘pushbacks’ tactic could put lives at risk – and a union has warned Border Force officials could go on strike over the “morally reprehensible” scheme.

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