Top court tells France to meet Calais migrants' needs


France's highest court -- the Council of State -- on Monday said the French government and the local authorities in the northern port of Calais must provide water and sanitation facilities for hundreds of migrants sleeping rough.

The court rejected a government appeal against an earlier, similar order and said in a statement the state's failure to provide for the migrants' basic needs "exposed them to inhuman and degrading treatment, dealing a serious and clearly illegal blow to a basic rights".

"These shortcomings are a serious and unlawful infringement on a fundamental freedom," the court said, noting that several migrants are suffering from skin diseases and psychological trauma as they have "no access to running water, showers or toilets and cannot therefore wash themselves or their clothes".

Calais was the main transit point for migrants and refugees trying to reach the U.K. until the French authorities dismantled the so-called Jungle camp in October 2016, once home to up to 7,000 people.

French interior minister Gerard Collomb said on Monday there are "about 350 to 400 migrants" still living rough in Calais.

Collomb said he had also requested a report from the local authorities following Human Rights Watch accusations that police were "routinely" using pepper spray on both underage and adult migrants.

Pas-de-Calais prefect Fabien Sudry denied the claims and described the accusations as "slanderous."

The interior minister said two centers would be opened in two communes of the Hauts-de-France region to house the migrants currently present in Calais and examine their situation.

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