As the conflicts harshly impacting several Middle Eastern and north African countries continue to intensify, the refugee problem remains one of the most heartbreaking disasters of our times. And according to research carried out by The Independent, many refugees are suffering in Europe.
According to the publication, refugees who find themselves in the area around Calais, France, have been subject to “endemic” levels of regular police brutality. As many worry the region is under a “police lockdown,” authorities crack down on refugees, hoping to keep them from entering the area.
On a daily basis, “scores of unaccompanied children,” as well as several other displaced individuals, have been experiencing a great deal of violence. Some have even reported suffering dislocated limbs due to the beatings they endured. In some instances, refugees have even reported having tear gas sprayed directly in their faces.
The Independent's Refugee Rights Data Project claims that ever since the demolition of the Jungle migrant camp, researchers have found that local police have been taking a “heavy-handed” approach toward people fleeing war. What's worse, research shows that this problem has been “particularly harmful for children.”
Currently, researchers estimate that there are about 400 refugees living in the streets of Calais and surrounding region. At least half of them are under age. When the Jungle center closed, the numbers of displaced people left behind increased. When talking to researchers, at least 89 percent said they had experienced violence at the hands of police during the time they spent in Calais.
Abuse is so widespread that 84 percent of respondents had been exposed to tear gas, while 52 said they were the victims of other forms of physical violence. At least 28 percent also reported verbal abuse.
The majority of children surveyed said they experienced violence coming from the police with 79 percent also reporting being targeted with tear gas, 57 percent exposed to physical abuse, and at leas 21 percent claiming to be the victims of verbal abuse.
Two in every 10 children have also said they were attacked with tear gas daily, while 41 percent said these attacks happened several times a week.
When it comes to the female refugee population, which makes up about 8 percent of the refugees in the region, the abuse is also evident.
A 27-year-old Eritrean woman said she was beaten by authorities while attempting to board a bus. In a separate incident, a 22-year-old Ethiopian woman said the police “pushed me to the floor and beat me.”
While many cases of abuse have happened as children attempted to leave to the United Kingdom, others were unprovoked. At least 92 percent of youngsters surveyed said they were woken up from where they were sleeping and told to move with 77 percent of them saying the incident was “violent.” In 55 percent of the cases, these children said they “felt scared.”
“Once in the middle of the night they threw tear gas on us, while we were sleeping under the bridge,” a 17-year-old Eritrean boy said. “Another time in the middle of the night, two police officers chased me and beat me with a baton and kicked me.”
“France police beat me in the middle night when I was alone,” a 17-year-old Sudanese boy said, while another respondent said that “[authorities] recognize me by my hair and they always come after me. They beat me up almost every day. I have had tear gas sprayed on me several times.”
But if tear gas and beatings weren't enough, the report also found that police have also been using tasers on refugees, while many unaccompanied minors have also been thrown into temporary detention by local authorities. A little over 75 percent of children surveyed were arrested.
In one case, an Eritrean teenage boy said he had papers that proved he was under 18, but that in one encounter with the police, they ripped them and detained him for more than 12 hours without giving him access to a toilet. He was later allegedly beaten.
Some refugees have also reported experiencing attacks coming from locals, with an Afghan saying that “[i]t's dangerous be on your own, because fascists beat you up.”
At least 59 percent of displaced children interviewed by researchers said they were suffering abuse and violence from local civilians. In February 2016, 49 percent of Jungle residents reported being on the receiving end of similar attacks.
Sue Clayton, who works closely with refugees in the area, says that “Calais is in police lockdown." As she arranged to meet some refugee children in a local cafe known to be “sympathetic to refugees,” she said the place “[was] raided by police. We ran off down a back street but could see more police patrolling at the next junction, so we bundled into a corner store.”
As soon as Clayton and the refugees arrived, she continued, “[the] shopkeeper immediately picked up what was going on. ‘It’s like an occupied town,’ he said. ‘There’s nowhere to go as the police ruling is that refugees can walk the streets, but cannot 's’installer' – meaning ‘install themselves.'”
With both Jungle and the neighbor Dundrik “gone,” she continued, “there is literally nowhere, nothing for these children.”
It's terribly heartbreaking to learn that these people who have been abused and traumatized by war and suffering in their home countries are also facing the same abuse while trying to live a dignified life away from conflict.