Official speeches and statements - October 31, 2016
1. Migration - United Kingdom - Dismantling of the «Calais Jungle» - Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at the Doué-La-Fontaine reception and guidance centre - excerpts (Doué-La-Fontaine - October 29, 2016)
THE PRESIDENT - Ladies and gentlemen, the Housing Minister and I have just visited a reception and guidance centre at Doué-La-Fontaine—a commune in Maine-et-Loire—which has taken in 38 migrants who were in Calais. They came here so that the camp, which was unworthy of what France can offer in terms of hospitality, could be evacuated and so that they could come here to a facility which will allow them to regain their strength and, above all, begin administrative procedures in order potentially to enjoy the right of asylum. (...)
But it’s very important that, in the space of a few days, we’ve been able to evacuate 5,000 people from Calais and receive them at all the places scheduled—450 reception and guidance centers—and this [figure] could even reach 9,000; I want to congratulate all the state services, all the voluntary organizations and of course the local authorities on this.
We still have 1,500 unaccompanied minors in Calais; they will very soon be transported to other centers. Yesterday I spoke to the British Prime Minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve also spoke to his counterpart, the United Kingdom Home Secretary, to ensure that the British accompany these minors to these centers and subsequently play their part in receiving them in the United Kingdom. So we’re very soon going to be able to evacuate the whole of what was called the Calais camp.
I think we’ve been doing this [evacuating the camp] under the best conditions, for the departure [of migrants from Calais] and the arrival [of them at reception and guidance centers]. I paid tribute to all the efforts made to ensure the transport and evacuation, but how could I not also express my gratitude to the communes, to the voluntary organizations which enabled the migrants and refugees to be taken in by the reception and guidance centres? France projected the best possible image, because given this time of difficulty for the refugees, we had to be equal to the task: we could no longer tolerate camps and we won’t tolerate them. There are some in Paris too, and we’ll have to evacuate them. Actually, the policy I put in place with the government was aimed at creating these reception and guidance centers to allow the camps to be evacuated and then direct these young men, young women, families and sometimes children towards places where they can be helped to find their feet and then steered towards the procedures they require.
France also has a responsibility to Europe: namely to ensure the control of external borders, because we can’t let migrants come who don’t have any rights to exercise. On the other hand, we must take in refugees who are victims of persecution in their countries, and we know them: Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Sudanese people. That’s part of our duty, and we must do it under conditions that are entirely worthy of France. I’ve welcomed the efforts of the ministers, government departments and services. And how could we not mention the voluntary organizations too? Here, in this centre, voluntary organizations are going to be able to work with the refugees, to teach them the French language, support them in the steps they take and enable them to gain access to the right of asylum.
That’s what France is: a country which is firm about the rules, which understands that Europe controls its borders, but a country which copes as decently and humanely as possible with the reception conditions for refugees. And while there have been attempts—very few, incidentally—to question this policy, to try and create doubt among the population, I think those attempts have failed to resonate, because—I see it again here—the people understand what we’re doing, and I really want to thank them. The people who are going to stay here will stay for barely three months and then be directed towards other places, which are those generally devoted to asylum seekers. The French people have understood perfectly what we’re doing, and there have been no incidents either on departure or on arrival. That’s what a country’s responsibility is when faced with a difficult situation: to show firmness, humanity and responsibility. Thank you.
Q. - Isn’t the situation in Calais just shifting the problem, when you see what’s happening in Paris among other places?
THE PRESIDENT - Well, it wasn’t those from Calais who went to Paris—there were a few. However, there’s been a new migration flow from Libya in recent weeks, recent months, and they’ve headed towards Paris. We’re working to evacuate the Paris camps, because this can’t be a sustainable situation. You can’t leave people destitute, you can’t let local people suffer inconvenience. We can’t tolerate this, so we’re going to conduct the same operation as for Calais but under different conditions, because those people haven’t been there long and we’re going to host them in reception and guidance centers if they’re eligible for asylum. I’ve been perfectly clear: people eligible for asylum go to the reception and guidance centers; those who are not are deported.
Q. - Does this transportation today have any symbolic significance?
THE PRESIDENT - Yes, the symbol is that there are values in France which people must always be reminded of. Those values are solidarity, fraternity, humanity. They were flouted, they were violated in Montreuil-Bellay and the [other] camps which were opened during the Second World War—but not closed until a year after the Second World War—and where people known as nomads, Roma, were interned under intolerable conditions. It was very important for the Republic to be able to say that, from this point of view, it had to remember its own responsibility. But at the same time, I’ve emphasized that in Montreuil-Bellay and all those camps, in the villages which experienced those situations, there was a lot of humanity, there was a lot of solidarity. On the Roma camps during the Second World War, which were kept until a year afterwards, they were French citizens, and it was very important for me to be able to say that we’re all French people and that we have the same rights and duties. Regarding travelers, they must of course behave as citizens in the Republic, but they are citizens in the Republic, and that was the message I wanted to get across. (...)
We’re delighted that the agreement which has just been reached in Belgium enables us to overcome the deadlock on CETA [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement]. A meeting will be held with the 28 member states’ representatives this afternoon which will enable that treaty to be signed.
We’re delighted about it, because France believes that, after many years of negotiations, we’ve reached a good agreement with Canada. CETA is a positive, balanced and regulated agreement. So we welcome the fact that it can be signed.
The recognition of 42 of our geographical indications, the safeguards for social and environmental standards, the protection of public services, the mechanism for settling disputes under public scrutiny—all these feature in the agreement, as we wished.
Likewise, because we share strong common values with Canada, all our red lines have been respected. So on the cultural exception, public services, the precautionary principle and the safeguarding of our food system, the guarantees feature in the agreement.
We’ve also agreed with Canada to establish the first public Investment Court, which puts an end to abuses of private arbitration—the notorious ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement].
All these issues were also raised by the parliament in Wallonia, and so answers have been given to them. This makes it possible for the Walloon reservations—on agriculture, public services and the right to regulate the dispute-settlement mechanism—to be overcome and for Belgium to approve the signature of the treaty.
What’s happening with CETA demonstrates that parliaments must be fully, closely involved in the negotiation and preparation of trade agreements.
France is defending a very important position, in particular regarding another agreement currently under discussion with the United States. On these trade agreement issues, the substance is more important than the timetable.
Such agreements must be negotiated more transparently. They must be based on reciprocity, offer every guarantee of compliance with environmental and social standards, and not undermine the right of states to regulate, otherwise they won’t be supported by parliaments.
We think good trade agreements are possible. It’s in the European Union’s interest to negotiate them. But it must do this while making strong demands, because that’s how it can contribute to a globalization that is better regulated and better accepted. That’s Europe’s role: to champion our commercial interests and promote regulation within globalization.