A French court has overturned a ban on distributing food to migrants in Calais
Judges sitting in the northern city of Lille ruled that there was no security justification for preventing charities from handing out aid to asylum seekers in the troubled port town.
Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart argued that food banks were a threat to public order because they brought large numbers of refugees together at once, risking tensions with locals.
But the court this week found that there was no evidence to back up this assertion and ruled that the ban was an unjustifiable breach of fundamental rights.
Refugee charities welcomed the decision but warned that, with more people arriving in Calais every day, the demolition of the Jungle camp has not solved the migration problem.
The Calais Mayor had tried to argue the food banks were a public order risk
Charities have warned more and more people are returning to Calais
Aid workers also reported that the ban had served to increase hostility towards refugees and those helping them on the part of locals, who saw their town descend into lawless chaos at the height of the crisis last summer.
French authorities razed the squalid camp in October following years of controversy, which included repeated violent attacks by its inhabitants on UK-bound truckers.
Since then many migrants have applied for asylum in France and been distributed across the country, but others have gathered at the Grand Synthe camp in nearby Dunkirk which now faces a similar fate to the Jungle.
It was widely considered that, despite her citing public order concerns, the real reason behind the Mayor’s food ban was an attempt to dissuade people from returning to Calais and starting a new camp.
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The ban constituted a failure to assist a person in danger, depriving the most vulnerable people – including minors – of the basic human right to food
Sue Jex, Care4Calais
But sitting in Lille the judges ruled that it was the hope of reaching Britain, and not the aid operations carried out by charities, which attracted thousands of migrants to congregate on France’s northern coast.
They added that the ban on food distribution was a fundamental breach of asylum seekers’ Article 3 rights under the ECHR not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment.
Charities continued to provide food, as well as blankets and warm clothes to migrants, throughout the three weeks the ban was in force but were having to do so at aid points outside the town.
Sue Jex, Head of UK Operations for Care4Calais, said: “Today’s decision to overturn the ban on distributing food to refugees in key areas of Calais recognises the immense hardship these vulnerable refugees face every day – and our duty to help them."
Calais Jungle Camp: Before and After Fri, November 11, 2016
Extraordinary photographs show life in the last days of the Calais 'Jungle' refugee camp at the end of October, alongside the current scene as it stands today.
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She added: “The ban constituted a failure to assist a person in danger, depriving the most vulnerable people – including minors – of the basic human right to food, and Care4Calais partnered with other refugee support charities earlier this month to contest its legality.
“This week's ruling recognises there were no grounds for the food ban, and upholds the principle of human dignity. However, it is only the beginning – refugees are continuing to arrive in Calais every day, and are now living in conditions far worse than those of last year’s Jungle ever were. We can and must do more to bring these vulnerable people to safety.”
The ruling came as a result of an appeal lodged last week by aid organisations including Care4Calais, Auberge des Migrants, Gisti, Ligues des Droits de L’homme, Réfugiés Calais Kitchen, Le Réveil Voyageur, le Secours Catholique, and Utopia56.
Conditions in Calais have calmed down significantly since the Jungle was destroyed in October, with reports of disturbances and attacks on UK-bound lorries nosediving.