In less then a month, from July 27, the Olympics will take over London. While a training base in Nord-Pas de Calais welcomes athletes taking part in the games from all over the world while only a few miles away in Calais and Dunkirk, migrants are taking part in their own race to get to England and live in abject conditions.
Living in transit, they survive in squatter settlements or in precarious conditions, with limited access to care and under heavy police presence. On this grand occasion of the Olympics, Doctors of the World reports on the situation of migrants from the northeast coast and requests a stop to police harassment and eviction without alternative accommodation.
From Calais to London
After the closure of Sangatte refugee camp in 2002, migrants have not given up trying to get to England. On the coast of the North Sea, informal settlements have emerged. Squats are regularly destroyed, leaving migrants homeless. They are then subjected to constant harassment from the police that prevent them, day or night, to rest, even a few moments.
The strategy adopted by the French authorities aims at making their lives impossible by exhausting them physically and mentally in order to make them abandon their plan to move to England, or at least force them to leave the North Coast.
Yet this repressive policy does not appear to have the desired affect, transit migrants still remain for primarily economic and geopolitical reasons. The impact this has on an already vulnerable population is dramatic. Health problems related to living conditions are acutely aggravated, smugglers have a healthy trade, dispersion of migrants makes it more and more difficult access to humanitarian aid (distributing food, clothing, and medical care)
Doctors of the World, emergency care on the ground
Doctors of the World teams develop responses to deal with the health emergency. While installing a base on the camps of Dunkirk, teams also:
- Distribute survival gear (sleeping bags, jerry cans, hygiene kits, backpacks, plastic sheets)
- Improve living conditions and hygiene (building showers, latrines, establishment of means of access to water and waste management)
In Early 2012, the first semisolid and removable shelter was designed by Doctors of the World and constructed by Franck Doens, logistician at Doctors of the World, who designed the prototype:
"The nomadic and removable structure cannot be destroyed in case of expulsion from the land. It takes a week to put together the 25m ² structure and sleeps for 6-7 persons."
The prototype design has been reused by the local 'The Land of Wandering Association' and have even inspired some town halls to provide shelter for migrants in transit in their own areas. Local partnerships have been created including the Association of the " réseau des élus hospitaliers" An association of hundreds of elected officials, including elected local, regional and parliamentarians was also created in early 2011 to resist the order to destroy the prefect of a camp Norrent Fontes.
Doctors of the World calls for end to police violence, to respect the work of local organisations and to shelter the most vulnerable populations.
It is urgent, to stop policies that cause illness, to restore confidence with associations in the field and work for a more supportive health system.
"We must change our way of understanding that migration can be viewed as an opportunity and not a danger." Dr. Thierry Brigaud, president of Doctors of the World
On July 5, ahead of the Olympics, Doctors of the World will broadcast a web documentary designed to work with photo and sound of Sandra Calligaro and Julie Rousse. Made from testimonies of migrants, elected officials and representatives of associations, this web documentary reveals the determination of these migrants or ‘athletes' to gain entry to England, despite the risks, the physical and moral wounds related to the migratory journey.