Press Release – 4 March 2016

New independent research findings in stark contrast with Hollande’s statement that refugees “should be treated with dignity”:
73% of refugees in Calais have suffered police violence in France

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New first-hand field research shows that François Hollande’s statement that refugees “should be treated with dignity” is very different from the reality of life in the Calais camp. Almost 75% of respondents have experienced first-hand police violence during their time in Calais, including instances of sexual violence. And nearly half have experienced violence by citizens – largely from far-right groups.

The research was carried out by the Refugee Rights Data Project in partnership with Help Refugees, surveying more than 800 people residing in the informal camp in Calais, making it the largest independent data collection project to be carried out in Calais to date.

Preliminary results of the study cover 10% of the camp’s population – 86% of these respondents were adults, and 14% children aged under 18.

The results reveal that 74.1% of respondents have experienced health problems during their time in the camp – most due to its ‘unhealthy environment’.

In light of recent media reports citing self-harm and hunger strikes by refugees facing eviction, our study found that 2-3% of respondents cited suicide as an option if they are never allowed to have their asylum claims submitted in Britain and/or if their temporary homes are destroyed.

Having fled some of the most conflict-ridden areas of the world, 86.1% responded that they cannot go back to their country of origin for fear or war, persecution or death.

Please find more preliminary results below. The rest of our data is currently being processed, and a final report collating all 800+ responses will be released shortly.

“This data demonstrates that the French and British authorities have so far failed to treat people residing in the Calais camp with dignity and respect. We welcome Francois Hollande’s demand that refugees are treated with dignity and that unaccompanied minors are reunited with family in the UK ‘quickly and in an efficient fashion.’ We look forward to seeing him take practical steps to uphold the human rights of vulnerable people at this critical moment in history.”

Marta Welander – Founder and Coordinator, Refugee Rights Data Project

“Violence against vulnerable people is wholly unacceptable, and we are grateful to the Refugee Rights Data Project for shining a much needed light on this issue. We remain deeply concerned for the physical and mental well being of the refugees in Calais, in particular the 423 unaccompanied children, and believe that the French and British governments’ continued failure to provide residents with any clear information regarding their rights and options only serves to add to their trauma.”

Lliana Bird & Josephine Naughton – Founders, Help Refugees


  • 73% of respondents have experienced police violence
  • – 16.7% reported verbal abuse, 41.1% being exposed to tear gas, 28.3% physical violence, and 1% sexual violence
  • 57% have experienced tear gas ‘every day’ or ‘many times a week’. 17.4% have experienced tear gas ‘once a week’
  • 69.4% expressed that police treatment of refugees is ‘very bad’ or ‘bad’


  • 45.4% of respondents have experienced violence by citizens (non-police such as far-right groups)
  • – 28.9% reported verbal abuse, 27.1% physical violence, and 1.4% sexual violence


  • 74.1% of respondents have experienced health problems in the camp
  • 62.9% reported knowledge of at least one refugee death in the camp
  • 12.6% responded that the death was due to police violence, 12.4% due to citizen violence, and 5.9% due to health problems in the camp
  • 2-3% of respondents cited suicide throughout the survey, for instance if they are never allowed to have their asylum claims submitted in Britain or if their homes are destroyed


  • 82.3% intend to stay in Calais/Dunkirk or ‘don’t know’ what they will do if the camp is demolished
  • 92.6% of respondents wish to go to the UK
  • 35.2% have friends and/or family in the UK (including parents and children)
  • 23.8% would like to live in the UK for language reasons
  • 86.1% responded that they can’t go back to their country of origin, while 6.4% don’t know if they can go back
  • 69.7% said they have no access to information about European immigration rules and asylum laws
  • 74.1% have no information about their rights or opportunities to change their situation


The Refugee Rights Data Project is a non-profit project established in late 2015. We aim to fill the data gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in Europe by conducting our own independent field research.

Our project is entirely run by volunteers, who have expertise spanning a broad range of sectors. We are independent of any political ideology or religion, and united by our commitment to defend the rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable groups of people.


Help Refugees are a humanitarian organisation and the primary givers of aid in Calais & Dunkirk where they have been active since September 2015. To date Help Refugees has sent over £500,000 worth of aid to Calais, coordinated the building of over 1,000 shelters and run the main distribution warehouse. Help Refugees is also active across Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Athens and Idomeni. Visit:

Help Refugees is a charitable fund under the auspices of Prism The Gift Fund Charity Number: 1099682


For enquiries, please contact:

Natalie Stanton
Co-coordinator and Media Relations Manager – Refugee Rights Data Project
T: 07817 380 897