French police routinely abuse refugees in Calais

Human Rights Watch reports police in France use excessive force on migrants, accuses of violence on sleeping children

Refugee families in Calais (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Refugee families in Calais (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

French police regularly abuse refugees and migrants in the port town of Calais, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says in a new report.

The HRW is accusing authorities of turning a blind eye to police misconduct.

The report- aptly titled Like Living in Hell- alleges that police and riot squads have been using pepper spray on asylum seekers, including on children while they are asleep.

Authorities in Calais have also confiscated or pepper sprayed asylum seekers’ food, water, sleeping bags, blankets and clothes, says the report, arguing that the type of conduct violates international standards of policing.

"When police destroy or take migrants' blankets, shoes, or food, they demean their profession as well as harm people whose rights they've sworn to uphold,” says Benedicte Jeannerod, HRW's France director.

French authorities have denied the accusations in the report, which interviewed over 60 people.

"Police, of course, operate in Calais respecting the rules of law, with the sole objective of ensuring public order and security," said Fabien Sudry, prefect at the Pas-de-Calais region.

For over a decade, the region has been a magnet for refugees and migrants trying to reach Britain through the French region.

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