Senegambian migrants ‘face unprecedented difficulties’ in France

Monday, July 31, 2017

African migrants including some Senegambians based in Calais who attempted to cross over to the United Kingdom are at the present time ‘’facing unprecedented difficulties’’ pursuing their European dream.

The Point learnt that since the migrants’ encampment in the vicinity of Calais known as ‘’the jungle’’ was dismantled, many of the refugees are facing ‘’something never before known or experienced’’.

Calais is a port city in Northern France and it’s a principal ferry crossing point between France and England, where many of the migrants had settled.

Such concerns prompted this correspondent to try and find out the whereabouts or circumstances of some of the Senegambians since their removal from the camp few months ago.

Twenty-six-year-old Gambian Omar Ceesay, who was staying in the camp before it was dismantled, told The Point that it was ‘’simply disappointing’’.

Omar said: ‘’I came here hoping and praying that I will reach my destination only to be turned back into another centre.’’

Inquiring about his application submitted few months ago, he responded: “I don’t know...I don’t even believe my application will be sorted anytime soon. I’m hopeless.’’

Omar further recalled how they were dispersed by the French Police while staying in Calais. The manner, together with the treatment and movement, in which the Calais camp was dismantled has been a bone of contention over the past months.

Human right bodies have heavily criticised the French riot Police (Compagnies Republicaines de Securite, CRS) over the issue.

However the authorities later described the allegation as ‘’slander’’.

But few weeks later, the French Ombudsman, called ‘’Defenseur des Droits’’, also criticised measures by local authorities resulting in ‘’inhuman living conditions’’ for both asylum seekers and migrants.

Again authorities stood firm and responded that the Police have been ‘’operating and conducting their duties in accordance with the law’’.

Furthermore, a court ruling had also ordered the authorities to allow migrants access to ‘’drinking waters, toilets, washing machines and other basic necessities’’. They had only 10 days to comply.

As far as they are concerned, some of the Senegambians have a different point of view in moving beyond the ‘’first point of arrival’’.

Currently there are rules obliging refugees to register in the first country they entered.

Senegalese national Mamadou Thiam acknowledges that he should have stayed in Italy where he ‘’first stopped as a migrant’’. However, he added that he couldn’t and was later convinced by other refugees that ‘’we will be supported when we reach further’’ in Europe.

Thiam added: ‘’This is not what I was bargaining for... but I will keep trying because turning back is not a solution for me.’’

Even though most of the migrants moved to refugee centres, including the new Aid Centre for asylum seekers outside Paris, some of the migrants are now living on the streets and sleeping rough, some under road bridges.

Nonetheless, there is now optimism and a new sense of hope as the newly elected French President, Emmanuel Macron, has stressed that he doesn’t want to see ‘’anyone on the street or in the forest again’’ adding that he wants ‘’emergency accommodation everywhere....will accommodate everyone in a dignified way’’.

Whatever the case may be, both Omar and Mamadou are eagerly awaiting the outcome of their cases – whether, if they are not accepted as refugees, they will be able to stretch any further.

Author: Alhagie Mbye, The Point’s Europe Correspondent