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  • French President Emmanuel Macron (R) talks to Ahmed Adam from Sudan at a migrant center in Croisilles, France, January 16.

    French President Emmanuel Macron (R) talks to Ahmed Adam from Sudan at a migrant center in Croisilles, France, January 16. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 January 2018

Calais' shantytown was bulldozed in late 2016, but hundreds of migrants remain in dire living conditions, harassed daily by French police and assaulted by fascist factions.

French President Emmanuel Macron has defended his tough line on immigration despite a month of sharp criticism over what has been branded his "inhumane policy" by human rights groups.

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In a closely watched speech in Calais, a city symbolizing France's failure on migrants and refugees, Macron promised a more orderly immigration policy with zero tolerance for slums, referencing the squalid shantytown near the port that was once home to some 10,000 migrants and refugees hoping to move to Britain.

Meanwhile, near the ferry port in Calais close to the site of the razed so-called "Jungle," dozens of migrants and asylum-seekers queued for hot tea and food from a charity after spending a cold night camped out in the woods.

A group of young men from Oromia in Ethiopia described nightly police operations to clear the camps, with charities such as Human Rights Watch and French ombudsman Jacques Toubon accusing officers of using pepper spray on sleeping migrants and stripping them of their tents.

"They gas the tent while you're sleeping or gas you in your face," said Dawit, 21. "The tent, they take it; the sleeping bag, they take it."

However, Macron defended the local police, stressing they were working in difficult conditions. He also criticized certain charity groups in Calais, accusing them of helping migrants break the law by encouraging them to stay in the area or even helping them to stow away.

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