French interior minister vows to maintain 'order' in Calais

France’s interior minister vows to maintain 'public order' in Calais as deteriorating living conditions of refugees trigger demonstrations

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

People hold a banner reading "My port is nice, my city is beautiful" during a march in Calais called by shopkeepers and professionals to "support employment," January 24, 2016

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve vowed to maintain order in Calais on Sunday, a day after some 50 refugees tried to board a British ferry, which triggered a short time closure of the port.

"The government is completely determined to ensure public order is maintained in Calais," Cazeneuve said.

On Saturday, around 2,000 people, - refugees and protesters from Britain, France, Belgium and Italy - protested the living conditions at the camp in Calais, known as the “the Jungle.”

They demanded "dignified living conditions" for the camp's estimated 4,000 refugees, running from war and poverty in North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

An Afghan refugee walks among a dismantled area of the camp known as the "Jungle," a squalid sprawling camp in Calais, France, January 19, 2016

"Refugees welcome," "Calais, Lesbos, Lampedusa, our borders," "Open the borders, let them in," read the protesters' banners.

Following the demonstration, some 200 refugees tried to reach the Calais port.

Around 50 of them managed to reach the port and board the "Spirit of Britain" ferry to go to Britain.

Calais prefect Denis Gaudin said some of the refugees had decided to leave the boat voluntarily and that the police removed the rest.

24 refugees and 11 members of a pro-refugee NGO, the No Borders Network, were taken to a police station.

Four refugees and two protesters will appear in court on Monday.

The temporary closure of the port during the incident heightened tensions in Calais.

Shop owners and local business owners of Calais held a separate protest on Sunday to demand tougher government controls.

People hold flags reading "I love Calais" during a march in Calais called by shopkeepers and professionals to "support employment," January 24, 2016

Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart led the demonstration.

"What happened yesterday (Saturday) is a failure of the government," she said.

Bouchart demanded President Francois Hollande to "come to Calais to solve the problems related to the camp."

Protesters marched through the city for two hours, with locals peering out of their windows and applauding the demonstrators.

Local official Jean Marc Puissesseau estimated that passenger numbers at the port have fallen by 40,000 compared to a year ago.

Around 2,000 people joined Sunday’s demonstration, with the leaders of the march holding a banner saying "My port is nice, my city is beautiful -- support our city, our port, our businesses and our jobs."


TRTWorld and agencies