France: Migrant Crisis Spirals Out of Control

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by Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute:

  • French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb described the level of violence in Calais as “unprecedented.” He attributed the fighting to an escalating turf war between Afghan and Kurdish gangs seeking to gain control over human trafficking between Calais and Britain, which many migrants view as “El Dorado” because of its massive underground economy.

  • During his visit to Calais, Macron outlined his government’s new immigration policy: food and shelter for those entitled to remain in France, and deportation of those in the country illegally.

  • “Emmanuel Macron did it. Never before has a president of the Republic fallen into unpopularity so fast and then become popular again.” — Paris Match.

Hundreds of Africans and Asians armed with knives and iron rods fought running street battles in the northern port city of Calais on February 1, less than two weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron visited the area and pledged to crack down on illegal immigration.

The clashes plunged Calais — emblematic of Europe’s failure to control mass migration — into a war zone and reinforced the perception that French authorities have lost control of the country’s security situation.

The mass brawls, fought in at least three different parts of Calais, erupted after a 37-year-old Afghan migrant running a human trafficking operation fired gunshots at a group of Africans who did not have money to pay for his services. Five Africans suffered life-threatening injuries.

Within an hour, hundreds of Eritreans, Ethiopians and Sudanese took to the streets of Calais and attacked any Afghans they could find. More than a thousand police officers using batons and tear gas were deployed to restore order. Two dozen migrants were hospitalized.

French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb described the level of violence in Calais as “unprecedented.” He attributed the fighting to an escalating turf war between Afghan and Kurdish gangs seeking to gain control over human trafficking between Calais and Britain, which many migrants view as “El Dorado” because of its massive underground economy. Each day around 40 ferries depart Calais for Britain.

Vincent de Coninck, director of the charity Secours Catholique du Pas-de-Calais, said that rival gangs were trying to secure control over access to the port of Calais in order to induce payments of €2,500 ($3,100) from migrants seeking to stow away on trucks crossing the English Channel.

De Coninck added that the situation in Calais had deteriorated since January 18, when Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May signed the so-called Sandhurst Treaty, in which May pledged to speed-up the processing of migrants hoping to travel to Britain from Calais.

According to de Coninck, Macron and May failed adequately to explain the contents of the new treaty. This failure, he said, had created false hopes among migrants from Africa and elsewhere that the treaty would improve their chances of reaching Britain. De Coninck further said that hundreds of new migrants had arrived in Calais during the two weeks since the treaty was signed. The surge of new arrivals, he said, had created an “imbalance” between Africans and Asians — thereby increasing inter-ethnic tensions.

François Guennoc, vice-president of the Calais charity L’Auberge des Migrants, echoed the view that the new treaty had created false expectations. “It gave people hope to reach England,” he said.

“People arrived suddenly, about 200, mainly underage people and women who arrived in Calais because they thought that the Home Office said they could go directly to England. Then they thought the Home Office was lying. People were upset. It was crazy.”

Europe’s migration crisis has emerged as the first major test facing President Macron, who appears to be seeking out a middle-ground compromise position on the issue: he has promised to pursue “humanitarianism” by speeding up the processing of asylum requests while also pledging to pursue “firmness” by deporting those who do not qualify.

During the presidential campaign, Macron, who ran as a centrist, repudiated the anti-immigration positions of his opponent, Marine Le Pen. He campaigned on a platform of open borders and promised to establish France as “the new center for the humanist project.” Since assuming office on May 14, 2017, however, Macron appears to have incorporated many of Le Pen’s ideas.

In an essay published by Le Monde on January 2, 2017, Macron wrote that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow in more than a million migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East had “saved the collective dignity” of the European people. He added that he would not tolerate the “rebuilding of walls in Europe” and criticized the “abject simplifications” made by those who say that “by opening the borders to migrants, the chancellor exposed Europe to severe dangers.”

On July 27, 2017, however, after less than three months in office, Macron warnedthat 800,000 migrants in Libya were on their way to Europe. He announced a plan to establish immigration centers in Libya to vet asylum seekers there. He said his plan would stem the flow of migrants to Europe by discouraging economic migrants from embarking on the Mediterranean crossing to Europe. “The idea is to create hotspots to avoid people taking crazy risks when they’re not all eligible for asylum,” Macron said. “We’ll go to them.”

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