French police exploit scabies epidemic to clear migrant camps

The French government is exploiting a scabies epidemic to clear the migrants from the ad-hoc encampments known as the ‘Jungles’ in the Calais area. At approximately 10am, scores of unknown individuals wearing gasmasks and dressed in white uniforms, entered the Tajik/Hazara squat in scrubland near the ferry port, tore apart their shelters and sprayed an irritant chemical over their belongings. They claimed to be disinfecting the area as part of a programme to treat scabies, despite the fact that the operation was officially cancelled by the French government. Cooking utensils were contaminated, and the absence of running water in the camps made cleaning their equipment especially difficult. “ We are not animals.” One Afghan said. The unknown individuals also seized essential materials such as clothing, and arrested six people, all under the gaze of several vanloads of CRS police. Humanitarian groups and activists from the No Border Network and Calais Migrant Solidarity had been monitoring the situation in the numerous camps – which in all, are inhabited by some 1,800 migrants from countries such as Afghanistan and Sudan – but the raid occurred shortly after they had left the camp for the morning. This incident indicates change in tactics by the French authorities as they now seek to justify the continued repression of migrants in Calais, which has been drawing increased criticism by human rights groups. They intend to protest against the daily raids and police repression with a demonstration leaving from Coquelles detention centre at 2pm on Saturday 22nd August.

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