Every weekend is the same situation over and over again: minors ask for a shelter, and a number big or small of them are left to the street. It all begins on Friday night, demand increasing for the night from Saturday to Sunday, decreasing on Sunday night.
These minors don’t suddenly appear in Calais for the weekend. The official shelter, managed by France Terre d’Asile, is in Saint-Omer, city thirty km away from Calais. During the week, the minors try to cross in the area around Calais, and live in well known hyper-precarious conditions, aggravated by the police hunt happening since the destruction of the shantytown. During the weekend there are fewer trucks, hence these requests for a shelter.
Last weekend, 15 minors were arrested by the border police on Saturday early afternoon. The police contacted France Terre d’Asile who replied that there was no room, statement confirmed to associations that called later in the afternoon. It is unknown where these minors slept. At the beginning of the evening, five other minors are in need of accommodation, for lack of solution they will be housed by volunteers.
The weekend of 21 and 22 January was the one of legal fantasies. Three minors arrested by the PAF (French Border Police), who then contacted France Terre d’Asile. Refusal to take charge – without written notification. The problem, since a procedure has been started, is what to do with the minors. The police say to the minors that if they want to leave one of them must declare himself major, so the two other minors are related to the so-called major, who will be legally in charge of them, and it will be possible to let everyone out. This was done. The so-called major had with him a document from the CAOMI (Centers of Reception and Orientation for minors – see here, here, here, here and here) where he had previously been hosted … The same evening, two other refusals of sheltering from Terre d’Asile, by telephone, with the pretext that the names of the young people would be on a list of people considered as adults.
This Saturday, the snow falls on Calais. At 1:15 pm, France Terre d’Asile shelter is already full. That happened even if the capacity of the place in Saint-Omer was increased from 45 to up to 55 places; the rooms of a school were also opened for shelter, a priori out of any legal procedure for taking in charge minors, giving other 20 other places, also in Saint-Omer. Finally, at 1:45pm, a solution is found for two of the minors. But in the early afternoon, despite the 30 additional places, the shelter device is St Omer is already full. Knowing that the more Saturday afternoon will become evening, the more difficult it will be to reach a responsible person who can unlock a situation.
If you encounter minors on the street or are concerned about the situation, you can contact the maraude service of France Terre d’Asile, which is directly responsible for sheltering (06 49 99 09 33), and the president of the departmental council, which is responsible for child protection, since that is a departmental responsibility, Michel Dagbert (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008714986407).
Beyond the urgency of this weekend, there is that of an accommodation for minors in Calais, which is the only that can meet the real needs. And the best interests of the child (to use the terms of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child) must be prioritized over migration policy considerations.
Hendrick Avercamp: Winter scene.