As European leaders struggle to find solutions to the refugee crisis, a delegation from the ALDE Group in the European Committee of the Regions visited on 18 September reception centres in the French cities of Calais and St Omer, invited by ALDE-CoR Vice-President François Decoster, Mayor of St Omer. With the objective of coming up with concrete proposals for successful integration of refugees and migrants in municipalities throughout the whole of Europe, the delegation brought together local and regional politicians from all over Europe, as well as ALDE Party Vice-President, Angelika Mlinar MEP and Treasurer of the EDP Party, former MEP Jean-Marie Beaupuy.
During the visit, the delegation met with migrants, road hauliers, and the Deputy Mayor of Calais, Philippe Mignonet who explained that smugglers are becoming more organised and more powerful and acting with total impunity. He added that the situation risks destabilising public order as well as the local economy, in a city with 60% unemployment which has to spend millions of euros managing the camps that migrants have built.
Following the visit, ALDE-CoR Vice-President and host of the study visit, François Decoster said: “Calais is where we expect Europe to act and this is also where Europe can show it is the solution. It’s not by closing the borders that we find a solution.”
Jean Marie Beaupuy, Treasurer of the EDP Party and former MEP highlighted after the visit to Calais that “each EU country tends to think about itself. What we need, however, is someone to think about the EU and with power to act.”
ALDE-CoR Deputy Coordinator in the CoR’s Citizenship and Governance Commission, Jill Shortland (UK) added: “I’m shocked and stunned by what I’ve seen today. It’s astounding that there is not a massive presence by the charities of the world here in Calais. Why is the world not looking at Calais first? Why haven’t we learned the lesson here before the influx that we have witnessed in the rest of Europe? If we don’t act very swiftly then there will be an influx even greater than what we’ve seen so far.”
For ALDE MEP Angelika Mlinar the visit brought to light “the need to find a mechanism on the European level to define as quickly as possible where the individuals can apply for asylum in order for them to take the first steps towards integration. Among others, work is a very important part of it since it aids with the feeling of community and helps them build up their own future.”