Category Archives: France

Eyewitness: Refugees in Calais face bleak winter

Food distribution in Dunkirk. Image Neli Ban.
Food distribution in Dunkirk. Image Neli Ban.

Poorly pitched tents shake in the wind as the rain beats down on the only place that refugees in northern France can call home. Following extensive evictions of the small areas where it is possible to assemble a makeshift camp, families and individuals in Calais and Dunkirk who are from Sudan, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Syria and Eritrea suffer as winter takes hold.

There are still more than 400 people living rough in this part of France. Following the destruction of ‘the Jungle’ in 2017, conditions for vulnerable people hoping for a safe life are worse than ever.

Autumn has seen a further deterioration of circumstances that affect living conditions. As reported by aid organisation Calais Food Collective ( see: https://calaisfood.wixsite.com/calaisfood ) in September this year, the local politicians in the seaside city made it illegal to provide food in certain areas. Alongside these new regulations, the French riot police, the CRS, have been monitoring, questioning and disrupting their volunteers during food distributions in the new, permitted locations.

Neli Ban, a volunteer with another organisation, appreciates the growing problems that winter is causing. “A flimsy tent they sleep in must feel like it’s about to fly off, and they have nowhere to dry their soaked clothes and shoes.” Evictions of the basic camps took place last week. Tents and sleeping bags were taken or ruined, pots and pans were confiscated. Removing the ability to be able to cook is a multifaceted problem. Not only has your daily social activity been taken away, but you must now walk several kilometres in order to stand in a queue to receive a meal, and you have to do this three times a day.

As conditions in France worsen, so do the chances of being able to reach the UK. On 28th October, reports of a family from Kurdistan drowning in the sea shook the migrant community on both sides of the Channel. People from aid organisations together with refugees paid tribute to the adults and children whose lives were lost in the search for safety.

Another cause for concern are the decisions being made in the UK parliament. Family reunification is at risk after the Brexit transition period ends, as the Dubs Amendment has been repeatedly voted down, even after this tragic news. “If there are safe routes,” said Lord Alf Dubs, former child refugee, “then people will take them. If there are not, people will risk their lives.”

The penalty of a failed attempt weighs heavily on those in Calais. Fear of the water has to be weighed against the hope of joining family and having a new life. It takes many months and many risks for people to get even as far as France, the route from Greece through the Balkans will have included scaling mountains and facing the notorious Croatian border authority whose brutal and illegal actions are well documented ( see: https://.www.borderviolence.eu ). Another winter on the road, the elements and the police to contend with, is no way for Europe to treat vulnerable people from war-torn countries.

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/40927

Macron says Mont Blanc glacier melting proves global warming

Screenshot_2020-02-14 Macron says Mont Blanc glacier melting proves global warming
French president Emmanuel Macron looks at the Mer de glace glacier from the Montenvers railway station near Chamonix, at the Mont Blanc mountain range in the French Alps, February 13, 2020. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

CHAMONIX, France, Feb 13 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday the melting of Mont Blanc’s main glacier is irrefutable proof of global warming, as he sought to burnish his environmentalist credentials ahead of municipal elections next month.

During a visit to the “Mer de Glace” (sea of ice) – France’s largest glacier which has shrunk dramatically in recent years – Macron met scientists and announced new protective measures for the area, including higher fines for littering.

“What we are seeing with the evolution of the glacier is irrefutable proof of global warming and climate change and the toppling of an entire ecosystem,” Macron said in a speech after going up the glacier.

The Alpine glacier above the mountain town of Chamonix has been a tourist draw since the 19th century, but over the course of the 20th century it lost an average thickness of 50 metres (164 ft). The shrinking has sped up in the past two decades.

“A landscape is being deformed before our eyes and species are disappearing quickly. The fight for biodiversity is a fight for our own survival and is inseparable from the fight against global warming,” Macron said.

Macron launched a new national biodiversity agency and gave an overview of his government’s environmental achievements, including scrapping disputed airport, mining and shopping mall projects. He also listed several international summits in 2020 where he said France would try to convince other nations to join its fight against global warming.

Critics say that following the success of France’s green party at the 2019 European Union election and with municipal elections due in March, the Chamonix visit and other ecology-themed actions are an attempt at courting the green vote.

“We’d prefer that he’d be in his office working on ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industries and tax breaks for trucking rather than doing electoral tourism on the Mont Blanc,” Greenpeace France climate campaigner Clement Senechal said.

French weekly Le Point said the launch of the biodiversity agency is largely symbolic and that the upcoming municipal elections seem to be a bigger priority for Macron than taking action on climate change.

Lawmakers for Macron’s centrist party have said that at a meeting with Macron earlier this week the president had told them that ecology would be a key pillar for his policies in the second half of his five-year mandate, which ends in May 2022.

On Friday, on the sidelines of a visit to Munich, Macron will meet leaders of Germany’s Green party.

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20200213165308-nuplw/

Pesticide poisoned French paradise islands in Caribbean

pest
GETTY IMAGES
Image captionBananas are a big export industry for Martinique and nearly all are shipped to France.

The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique thrive on their image as idyllic sun, sea and sand destinations for tourists.

But few visitors are aware that these lush, tropical islands have a chronic pollution problem.

A pesticide linked to cancer – chlordecone – was sprayed on banana crops on the islands for two decades and now nearly all the adult local residents have traces of it in their blood.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called it an “environmental scandal” and said the state “must take responsibility”. He visited Martinique last year and was briefed on the crisis on the islands, known in France as the Antilles.

The French parliament is holding a public inquiry which will report its findings in December.

“We found anger and anxiety in the Antilles – the population feel abandoned by the republic,” said Guadeloupe MP Justine Benin, who is in charge of the inquiry’s report.

“They are resilient people, they’ve been hit by hurricanes before, but their trust needs to be restored,” she told the BBC.

Large tracts of soil are contaminated, as are rivers and coastal waters. The authorities are trying to keep the chemical out of the food chain, but it is difficult, as much produce comes from smallholders, often sold at the roadside.

Drinking water is considered safe, as carbon filters are used to remove contaminants.

In the US a factory producing chlordecone – sold commercially as kepone – was shut down in 1975 after workers fell seriously ill there. But Antilles banana growers continued to use the pesticide.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50144261

Severe flooding in south of France leaves three dead

damage

At least three people have died after floods hit the south of France, France’s Interior Ministry confirmed.

About 2,000 firefighters and rescue workers were deployed to the region, where rivers burst their banks, blocked roads and caused significant damage.

It is not known if a 68-year-old woman who was swept away from her home in Béziers is among the fatalities.

Flash floods also devastated parts of northern Italy and Spain this week, where three others died.

In a statement, the French interior ministry said the heavy rain was now moving down towards northern Corsica.

“Over the past three days, particularly severe storms have hit the south of France, causing three deaths and serious damage to the region,” the French Interior Ministry said in a statement.

“The rain continues and is now affecting the eastern coast of Haute-Corse. Everyone must remain vigilant.”

The town of Béziers saw 198mm (nearly 8in) of rain – or about two months’ average rainfall – in just six hours on Wednesday morning.

According to local media, the woman who was swept away by the floods in the town was found unconscious in a vineyard, about 100m (330ft) away. She was then taken by helicopter to hospital in Montpellier.

Dramatic images posted on social media showed cars submerged as the waters of the River Orb rose to dangerous levels.

In Hérault, forecasters said 240mm of rain fell in a 24-hour period – a 50-year record. Local prefect Jacques Witkowski told reporters that shelter had been given to more than 1,000 people whose homes had been flooded.

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50169525