France’s Macron wades into Calais migrant crisis

This file photo taken on March 16, 2016 shows a man sitting in the so-called “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais, northern France, during the end of the dismatling of the camp’s southern section. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2018

France’s Macron wades into Calais migrant crisis

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron will defend his controversial immigration policy Tuesday in the northern port of Calais, long a magnet for refugees and migrants trying to reach Britain.
France’s centrist president, who campaigned for open borders in last year’s election, has since drawn criticism for his government’s uncompromising attitude toward migrants sleeping rough on the streets of Calais and Paris.
France received a record 100,000 asylum claims last year, making it one of Europe’s top destinations.
Macron has promised to speed up waiting times for asylum applications while also stepping up expulsions of those who remain in France after being turned down for refugee status — an approach he touts as mixing “efficiency” and “humanity.”
NGOs, trade unions and left wing parties take a different view, often accusing him of wielding an iron fist in a velvet glove.
The police in Calais routinely break up the camps of migrants who descend on the region to try and stow away on trucks crossing the Channel to Britain, a favorite destination for Afghans and east Africans.
Hundreds of migrants are still massed in the area, over a year after the former Socialist government bulldozed the Jungle, a squalid makeshift camp in Calais, and moved its more than 7,000 occupants to shelters nationwide.
In December, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb further raised the hackles of migrant support groups by ordering ID checks in emergency shelters, sparking fears of a witch hunt against failed asylum seekers.
On Thursday, Macron will travel to southern England for a French-British summit where he will demand that Britain, which in 2003 effectively pushed back its border to France, do more to help ease the migrant burden.

Some in France see the situation in Calais as one of Britain’s making, given that the most of the migrants who descend on the area are desperate to reach England.
In an interview with Le Parisien published Sunday, Collomb said he would push for changes to the 2003 Le Touquet accords allowing British border controls on French territory.
Collomb said France would specifically demand “concrete measures” from Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on taking in more unaccompanied minors seeking to join relatives or friends across the water, and on contributing more to the costs of policing the border.
On Tuesday, Macron will meet migrants in Calais and NGOs working with them, as well as with local officials, residents and security force members calling for tougher laws to prevent the emergence of another Jungle.
Natacha Bouchart, the right wing mayor of Calais, told BFM television on Monday that the local population was “tired” of the situation and expected a lot from the president’s visit.
But the trip has not been welcomed by all, with two NGOs on the frontlines of the crisis in Calais refusing an invitation to meet him.
Francois Guennoc of the Auberge des Migrants charity said he did not want to act “merely as an alibi for a strategy that is already well established.”


Civilians, soldiers clash leaving 127 dead in South Sudan

Updated 18 sec ago

Civilians, soldiers clash leaving 127 dead in South Sudan

  • The violence in Tonj began after several armed youths got into a disagreement with soldiers
  • An initial armed confrontation was brought under control, but local youths mobilized others for an attack on the army position

JUBA: Clashes between soldiers and civilians during a disarmament exercise in the central South Sudanese town of Tonj have left 127 dead, the army spokesman said Wednesday.
Major General Lul Ruai Koang told AFP that the fighting erupted on Saturday as security forces carried out an operation to disarm civilians in the area which has seen deadly inter-communal clashes.
More than six years after a civil war broke out in the country, and in the absence of a functioning government, many communities are flush with weapons, which they keep for protection or defense against cattle raids.
The violence in Tonj began after several armed youths got into a disagreement with soldiers. An initial armed confrontation was brought under control, but according to Koang the youths mobilized others for an attack on the army position.
“On the latest, the number of those killed, I can confirm to you that it rose to 127,” Koang said, adding that 45 of those killed were security forces and 82 were youths from the area.
A further 32 soldiers were injured.
Koang said two military officers involved in “triggering the clashes” had been arrested, and that the situation in Tonj had calmed down.
South Sudan is emerging from a six-year civil war that left 380,000 dead and millions displaced, and disarmament is a major stumbling block.
Experts have warned against operations that coerce people to lay down their guns without proper planning, as some communities could find themselves unable to protect themselves after their weapons are removed.
“The clashes should be an opportunity to rethink the approach to disarmament. What is the point of removing guns without addressing what drives folks to arms themselves?” Geoffrey Duke, head of the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms, said on Twitter.
“We can take guns away this week & they buy a new one next week (as) long as they still see the need to have (one).”