The French Northern Coast, and in particular the region of the Hauts de France, has been dealing with the migrant crisis for decades. In this region, there is now about 1,200 migrants from the following countries: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan and Egypt. Migrants arrive to the region from various routes and end up in the region in order to attempt to enter the United Kingdom, hoping to stow away on lorries, ferries, cars or trains.
In Calais and the greater area of Calais, the highest administrative court of France, the Conseil d’État, ruled on 31 July 2017, that the State has the obligation to provide an access to water and sanitation to migrants in Calais. The same day, the mayor of Calais issued a public statement saying that the city of Calais will not implement the decision. In August and September 2017, the French government put in place a temporary solution consisting of ten portable toilets and a two-month contract with a local organization – La Vie Active – to provide drinking water and an access to showers to migrants. This contract has been extended. However, there is still no long-term solution to access to safe drinking water and sanitation in Calais and the greater area of Calais. Migrants communities are spread throughout the city and its greater area, some are not reached by La Vie Active and therefore do not have a proper access to sanitation. Migrants continue to wash in the river, which is polluted, and many suffer from skin diseases due to the lack of hygiene. Migrants continue to report the use of tear gas by the police on sources of water.
In Grande Synthe, the main camp La Linière was dismantled in April 2017 and the informal settlement in Puythouck was evacuated on 19 September 2017. However, migrants returned and, four days after, there were 400 to 500 people back in Grande-Synthe. There are many families with women and young children. Drinking water was provided by the city but showers were not in place. Migrants, including many women and children, had to wash themselves in the nearby lake. Cases of scabies are reported. In December 2017, the city of Grande Synthe opened a gymnasium with a capacity of 100 people. A few days later, people who were not accepted in the gymnasium (hosting around 150 to 200 migrants right now) had to stay or return to the informal settlement of Puythouck. Around 150 persons currently live on this zone without any access to drinking water, toilets or showers.