Afghans and Eritreans clash in France’s Calais city, four in a critical condition
Two police officers were also injured in the violence, which broke out in two locations
Five migrants were shot during violent clashes between Afghans and Eritreans in the French city of Calais on Thursday night. Four of them are in critical condition, according to AFP. Around 22 people were hospitalised after the brawl, including migrants from the African country between the ages of 16 and 18.
Two police officers were also injured in the clashes. Security was heightened to protect the Afghans, who were in great minority during the clashes.
Two clashes broke out in the northern port city. One, which involved 100 Eritreans, began after an Afghan migrant opened fire while waiting in a queue for food handouts. The second broke out about 5 km away between 20 Afghans and more than a hundred Eritreans armed with iron rods and sticks. The local prosecutor’s office said 13 people were wounded because of “blows from iron bars”.
“We have reached an escalation of violence that has become unbearable for both those from Calais and migrants,” said Interior Minister of France Gerard Collomb, who visited one of the locations of the clashes. “This is a level of violence never seen before.”
Migrants head to Calais hoping to cross the English Channel to Britain. In similar clashes in June 2016, 40 people were injured, and in July 2017, 16 people were injured in violence.
At least four people suffered gunshot wounds and dozens were injured as violent clashes between Afghan and Eritrean migrants broke out in and around the French port city of Calais.
The violence broke out around 3pm on Thursday afternoon when a brawl began between rival gangs of migrants from Afghanistan and Eritrea “armed with sticks and stones” near Calais Hospital.
The fight, which lasted almost two hours, reportedly began with an Afghan migrant opening fire, AFP reported. At least four Eritreans, aged between 16 and 18, received bullet wounds, including one who was transported to the hospital in Lille in “very serious condition.” The others were taken to Calais Hospital for “urgent” surgery.
Three others suffered “multiple injuries.”
Shortly afterwards, over a hundred Eritreans “armed with sticks” charged at 20 Afghan migrants five kilometers (three miles) away from the first site, in the town of Marck, forcing police to intervene “to protect the Afghan migrants,” the local prefecture said, putting the number of Eritreans at 150 to 200.
Another incident happened in the industrial area near the infamous ‘Jungle’ migrant camp, which was shut down in October 2016. Scuffles broke out after Afghan migrant came to receive food handouts and were confronted by a crowd of African migrants, according to a prosecutor.
A total of 22 people were injured in the fracas, AFP reported.
The spike in violence follows a Calais police operation to remove squatters on Thursday morning. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb urgently flew to Calais to voice his support for the police and discuss the situation with the local authorities.
“This is a degree of violence previously unknown,” Collomb said.
Asked about the grim conditions in the area of what was the Calais Jungle, the minister said that “those who want to stay here illegally – it’s not possible,” according to Le Monde.
Calling situation “unacceptable,” Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart said she asked Collomb to “expel the troublemakers.”
“It is up to the state to take care of these people, we can no longer accept this situation which concerns 450 to 500 migrants. Such acts cannot be repeated,” she told BFM TV.
Charity groups that work in Calais estimate that there are 800 migrants living in Calais. Over a year after the ‘Jungle’ was dismantled, the authorities are still struggling to clear the area from migrants, who keep setting up makeshift camps and sleeping rough. Following the camp’s closure, many of its displaced residents moved on to Paris and other French cities.
In December, mayors of seven major French cities wrote an open letter to the government, asking it to do more to tackle the refugee crisis.
Despite French President Macron’s promise that the public “will no longer see anyone on the streets” by the end of 2017, hundreds of migrants are still on the streets seeking shelter.
France sends more police to Calais after migrant gunfight
By: MICHEL SPINGLER, Associated Press
Updated: Feb 2, 2018
CALAIS, France (AP) - Police reinforcements arrived Friday in the French port city of Calais after clashes among migrants left 22 people injured, with the interior minister warning of more potential violence among those seeking to cross into Britain.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters in Calais on Friday that five of the victims were injured by gunfire in Thursday's fighting, blaming migrant traffickers and "totally organized" gangs. Police were seeking a shooting suspect but have made no arrests, he said.
Firearms are rare among migrants, and the shootings were the most serious clash in recent times among migrants around Calais.
Two extra police units were arriving Friday, Collomb said. He said that while in the past such violence was spontaneous, he said it appears to be growing more organized. He said local authorities have dismantled six migrant trafficking networks already this year, compared to 20 in all of 2017.
The prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais region said the gunfire was the culmination of a showdown between Afghan and Eritrean migrants, fighting each other with sticks and stones, after a meal distribution near the Calais hospital.
In a second confrontation, up to 200 Eritrean migrants cornered 30 Afghans near the former site of a makeshift migrant camp that housed thousands of people before it was evacuated and destroyed in 2016.
Collomb said the government will start meal distribution to migrants outside Calais in the coming two weeks, instead of leaving it to aid groups, in an effort to stop feeding spots from becoming fixed nodes of tension.
Insisting that "very few" people successfully sneak across to Britain, Collomb said, "if you want to go to Britain, you shouldn't go to Calais."
Collomb also called for long-term solutions to speed up asylum decisions and deport economic migrants with no right to refugee status.
Tensions have been high in Calais since the camp was destroyed. More than 1,130 French security forces have been posted in Calais to keep migrants out of the port and Eurotunnel and to stop them from setting up camps.
Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.