The structure reserved for migrants from Calais closed its doors on Monday, November 15, just 12 days after it opened. The place had been proposed as part of a mediation dispatched to the city to defuse the crisis in Calais, after a hunger strike started by several activists.
Barely open and already closed. The reception airlock in Calais, operational from November 3, no longer welcomes migrants since Monday, November 15, barely two weeks after it was put into operation. The structure was created to defuse the crisis in the region and try to respond to the demands of the three hunger strikers who demanded “an end to daily harassment and evictions”.
The structure was one of the flagship measures proposed by Didier Leschi, the boss of the French Office for Immigration and Integration (Ofii), sent as mediator to Calais.
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Large white tents and 300 camp beds had been set up in this building on rue des Huttes, 4km from Calais city center, to shelter the migrants after their expulsion from a camp.
The exiles were able to spend the night there but had to leave the place the next day at 8:30 am. They were then redirected to more permanent accommodation outside Calais, in “homes or reception centers”, “mainly in Hauts-de-France,” Didier Leschi said in an interview with InfoMigrants.
In 12 days, the site hosted a total of 3,024 people, an average of 252 exiles each evening, according to figures from the Pas-de-Calais prefecture.
“Set up permanent structures for the work of smugglers”
So why such a sudden closure? The prefecture, joined by InfoMigrants, indicates that “this device was opened within the framework of the mediation, the time necessary to the mobilization of 300 new places of accommodation. De-Calais and 150 outside the department”.
Didier Leschi, contacted by InfoMigrants, also recalls that the place was “temporary”. “From the start, we explained that we did not want accommodation to be in Calais to prevent the creation of fixing points,” he said. “Set up permanent structures to increase the work of smugglers, so we must prevent people from stagnating in Calais”.
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In addition, still according to the head of the Ofii, some of the exiles accommodated in the airlock “refused the proposed accommodation, which embolished the place”.
Cars are parked every day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in front of the now closed site to redirect migrants who wish to do so.
The Calaisis associations, which learned of the closure of the airlock by the press, are indignant. “It was a false solution: sleeping in a shed was not a shelter but it was always better than nothing”, regrets Marguerite Combe of Utopia 56. For Pierre Roques, coordinator of the Auberge des migrants, “the opening of this place was only an announcement effect, a communication coup”.
About 1,500 migrants currently live in Calais, according to associations, where the arrival of winter temperatures worry activists. The prefecture specified that the hangars on rue des Huttes will reopen in the event of “extreme urgency, particularly in the context of the extreme cold and storms plan”.