Calais crisis: UK and France slammed by UN envoy for failing to understand the desperate plight of refugees

'The numbers in the camp are only about 3,000 and could be easily handled'

Andy McSmith
Friday 09 October 2015 20:37
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The "New Jungle" migrants camp inhabited by some 3,500
The "New Jungle" migrants camp inhabited by some 3,500

Conditions in the migrant camps in Calais are “a living reproach to European society” and to the UK’s refusal to take its fair share of refugees, the UN Special Representative on International Migration has said.

Peter Sutherland castigated the governments of the UK, France and several Central and East European states for their seeming failure to understand the desperate plight of refugees fleeing war zones.

A visit to the camps in Calais had left him wondering if the squalor he saw there was a deliberate ploy to discourage others from trying to find refuge in the UK.

Speaking at a conference on boat migrants at University College Dublin, Mr Sutherland said: “The conditions in which the migrants were living were truly shocking. Doctors there told me of clear evidence of TB and scabies.

“This is a disgrace. It is also a clear example of the broader inadequacies in Europe’s practical expression of its much-vaunted values.

Cameron has promised that the UK will take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years

“These poor people, determined to reach Britain, and having already endured dreadful hardships to get to Calais, are stuck. The site is a living reproach to European society – a desperate place populated by desperate people.”

Mr Sutherland added: “The numbers in the camp are only about 3,000 and could be easily handled. Are they being kept in squalor to put off others? Is improving their condition seen as a potential ‘pull factor?’

“This logic is almost as obscene as the suggestion that saving lives in the Mediterranean might tempt others to come. The reality is that the issues surrounding the mobility of mankind in an era of global communications of all kinds require far more than the pandering to the xenophobia and racism increasingly evident in parts of the developed world.”

On 9 October, the Mid Kent MP Helen Whately, one of three MPs who travelled to Calais to take aid donations to inhabitants, said conditions there were “bad and getting worse”.

David Cameron has promised that the UK will take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years, but will only take those who are in camps in the Middle East.

The Prime Minister claims that accepting refugees who have found their way across Europe would encourage others to attempt the journey, and that Britain would be “overwhelmed” if every refugee who wanted to come here was accepted.

Germany has agreed to absorb 800,000 refugees. There are currently 1.7 million in Turkey and a similar number in Lebanon, while Greece and Italy have born the brunt of refugees seeking to escape by crossing the Mediterranean.

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