The EU stalls on plans to reform asylum law, French authorities steam ahead with the destruction of the “Jungle”.
On 24 October, French authorities started clearing the “Jungle” camp in Calais, France, where approximately 6,500 non-EEA migrants were living attempting to cross the Channel into the UK. At the time of writing, approximately 2,800 people had been taken to refugee centres around France, with only 200 expected to remain in the bulldozed camp.
By one survey, the largest group of people living in the camp are from Sudan, at around a third, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Eritrea and Pakistan, the majority of whom are trying to reach the UK in order to claim asylum.
In order to claim asylum in the UK, a migrant has to be in the UK or at a port of entry in the UK. Additionally, carriers can be fined if they are found to have transported illegal immigrants to the UK. Accordingly, as the majority of asylum seekers do not hold any form of UK visa, they are not able to travel to the UK by conventional means or pass UK border control at Calais. Instead, they attempt to enter the UK by climbing into lorries and other vehicles travelling across the Channel.
Such attempts are however often unsuccessful meaning that migrants stay in the Jungle, where conditions are deplorable, with limited space, unending mud, inadequate water points and sanitation and no electricity or no heating, until they are able to make it into the UK, much to the local population’s dismay.
The relocated residents will now have their asylum applications processed in France and, under the Dublin Convention, will not be able to apply for asylum in the UK.
Provisions have however been made for unaccompanied minors living at the camp who have family in the UK. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said that almost 200 children had been brought to Britain in the days leading up to the clearance and there were several hundred more to arrive.
The move to destroy the camp comes amid the continuing refugee crisis, which saw some 1,014,836 people arrive in the EU by sea routes alone in 2015.
The EU’s response to the crisis has been largely criticised. Whilst the Commission released proposals for the reform of the Common European Asylum System in May, the institutions have been slow to act on these. In particular, European Parliament is waiting for the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee to make a decision on the proposed changes to the Dublin convention and the Council only debated them at the beginning of October.
Likewise, the proposal on the Dublin convention has been criticised for making little progress in addressing key issues: asylum-seekers are still obliged to claim asylum in the Member State they first enter (a system that has largely broken down due to the large number of migrants arriving in Greece and Italy) and the Member State where an unaccompanied minor first claims asylum will be responsible to assessing that claim, despite a recent ruling to the contrary.
It seems instead that, rather than amending internal EU procedures, the Union is attempting to limit the number of migrants arriving in the EU.
The agreement between the EU and Turkey, whereby all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece are returned to Turkey and for every returned Syrian, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU, has proved successful in decreasing the number of migrants travelling through this route, with arrivals of Syrian migrants falling from 55,000 in February to 3,000 in August.
The crossing from Libya to Italy has now become the main route for migrants, with most of them originating from various countries in Africa. The European Council accordingly agreed to strike deals with African countries similar to the one with Turkey, starting with Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia.