More Calais Jungle residents should be willing to stay in France

France is not a bad place to end up, and surely better than the squalor of the Jungle

Tuesday 01 March 2016 21:54 GMT
French riot police secure an area inside the camp
French riot police secure an area inside the camp (EPA)

It was never going to be easy for the French government to transfer residents of the Jungle into new, more permanent housing. Refugees and migrants have put work into building rudimentary huts, and many do not wish to leave, fearing that they will be prevented from attempting to reach Britain and forced to claim asylum in France. With homes and hopes on the line, French police ought to have approached their task delicately. That has not happened. Tear gas was fired into crowds to disperse them before the bulldozers moved in on 29 February, only adding to the sense of crisis.

The eviction has been handled poorly. But the process the French authorities have begun is both sensible and necessary: there are disputes over whether there are enough new shipping-container homes for evicted camp residents to move into, but at least 1,000 people (which the government claims to be the total) will have the chance to live under a proper roof, with access to far better sanitation. The authorities would have been wise to run a more involved information campaign in the Jungle before the move began, and to make absolutely sure that there were enough new homes on offer.

But some responsibility here also lies with the residents themselves. It is the idea of staying in France that makes many unwilling to take up space in a permanent home, and consequently be put into the French asylum system. Some will have family ties to the UK. But many cite the difficulties of learning a new language, or concern with the lengthy French asylum system. In these cases, more should be willing to accept an imperfect, but nonetheless reasonable offer. The French asylum system is not much different to the British; the children of those granted refugee status receive free education, and adults are given language classes. France is not a bad place to end up, and surely better than the squalor of the Jungle.

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