France’s highest administrative court ordered the government to provide humanitarian aid to the hundreds of migrants who have continued arriving in the northern port city of Calais even after authorities destroyed the infamous “Jungle” camp.
In blistering language, the court decried the squalid conditions facing migrants in Calais, long a dramatic focal point in French politics and in Europe’s ongoing migration crisis. It also rejected appeals by state and local authorities, both of which had resisted an earlier order to improve the situation.
“The living conditions of migrants reveal a failure of public authority, which is liable to expose the persons concerned to inhuman or degrading treatment and thus constitutes a serious and manifestly unlawful interference with a fundamental freedom,” read the opinion of the court, known as the Conseil d’Etat.
The ruling came less than a week after the publication of a sharply critical report from Human Rights Watch, based on conversations with approximately 60 migrants, about half of whom were minors. Those interviewed complained of police violence and regular disruptions of humanitarian assistance, especially food and access to amenities as basic as toilets and showers.
Perhaps the most shocking allegation in the Human Rights Watch report — widely discussed in French media — was that riot police regularly use pepper spray on child migrants, even when they pose no conceivable threat.
Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said in response to the court’s ruling Monday that France would open two facilities in the Calais region to house and better inform incoming migrants about the asylum process.