EU could recommend retaliatory visas against Canada over Czech visa restrictions Mon Sep 21, 7:33 PM BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Union’s top justice official warned Monday he will push for retaliatory measures against Canada if it does not take steps toward lifting travel restrictions on Czech citizens by the end of the year.
“Meanwhile in CALAIS, France — French authorities dismantled and bulldozed a camp for undocumented migrants outside this English Channel port on Tuesday, rounding up almost 300 Afghans, Pakistanis and others who had gathered there for years in the hope of making clandestine journeys across the 22 miles of water to Britain.
Starting at daybreak, hundreds of paramilitary officers scuffled with migrants and campaigners from a group called No Borders as the authorities closed down the camp, known as “the jungle” by migrants and Calais residents alike for its location among the thorn bushes and sand dunes of Calais.
Hours later, yellow earth movers began flattening the makeshift shelters used by hundreds of migrants seeking to sneak — or be smuggled by organized gangs of traffickers — across the channel to Britain, which is itself seeking to tighten border controls against unwanted migrants. Workers with chain saws moved in to cut down the brush that had hidden the area from view.
The camp, with huts and a mosque made of packing crates, blankets and tarpaulins, grew after the closing of a Red Cross shelter for migrants in nearby Sangatte in late 2002. The operation on Tuesday had been loudly signaled by the authorities, and many migrants — possibly 1,000, according to news reports — had slipped away before the raid.
With migrants outnumbered by 500 riot police officers, the half-hour operation began at 7:40 a.m.. Under the gaze of about 200 waiting journalists, police dragged or escorted away the mainly Afghan migrants who had gathered in silence under a banner written in Pashto and English declaring: “The jungle is our house, please don’t destroy it — if you do so then where is the place to go?”
Some were led away in tears.
The immigration minister, Eric Besson, defended the operation on RTL radio Tuesday. “This is not a humanitarian camp,” he said. “It’s a base for human traffickers.”
At a news conference in Calais, Mr. Besson said 276 people, including 135 teenagers, were arrested and their fate would be determined on a “case by case” basis.
French authorities say some migrants will return to their countries of origin, some will apply for asylum in France and some will be expelled to Greece, the country where most of them entered the European Union.
According to Pierre de Bousquet, the Pas de Calais prefect who directed Tuesday’s action, shelter has been made available for those migrants wishing to seek asylum, while minors will be taken to hostels for people under 18. Others will be held pending deportation.
Human rights bodies have urged Paris not to return migrants to Greece, but Mr. Besson declined to comment Tuesday on whether he had raised the issue with his Greek counterpart on a visit to the country on Friday.
Khaled Hadarhy, a 21-year-old Afghan, was rounded up along with two friends who were 16 and 17. “We are all young, but we look old because the jungle has made us old,” said Mr. Hadarhy, a former policeman from Helmand Province who has been in Calais for four months.
“The police will come and we will do what they tell us,” said Exel Palav, 20, from Afghanistan.
Pierre Henry, president of a campaign group called France Terre d’Asile, said Tuesday’s operation was an effort to make the migrants disappear “like a coin in a three-cup magic trick,” displacing them to neighboring Belgium or the Netherlands.
“The operation in Calais won’t stop departures from Kabul,” he said. “The smugglers will find other routes that are more complex and more dangerous.”
The move to eliminate the tents and ramshackle housing around the port is designed to halt migrants without papers from getting into Britain, and to crack down on the smuggling networks that assist them.
“Smugglers will not lay down the law,” the immigration minister, Mr. Besson, said last Wednesday. He first announced the plan to dismantle the camp in April, responding to complaints from local businesses.
The closure took place as European countries increasingly use force to crack down on unwanted migrants. On July 12, Greece eliminated a makeshift camp in the port city of Patras; in May, Italy struck a controversial accord with Libya allowing it to turn back migrants’ boats in the Mediterranean. The European Union estimates that 500,000 people cross its borders without papers each year.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/world/europe/23france.html?em