Mohamed Ouhab, who works for the humanitarian group Doctors of the World and was at the scene of the Syrian sit-in in Calais, says the Syrian refugees have been left with no other recourse than the sit-in and hunger strike. Their plight has not received much media attention, but there have been several heavy-handed evictions from places where the Syrians and their families had found refuge, says Ouhab. The activist added that many of the evictions were carried out without the court order French law mandates whenever a squat has been occupied for more than 48 hours. French authorities appeared to be singing a different tune on Friday. In an attempt to negotiate the Syrians’ voluntary departure from the ferry port, police prefect Denis Robin promised to help them obtain the legal paperwork that would allow them to stay in France while they applied for asylum in the country. Sweetening the offer, Robin told them Syrian asylum seekers were now considered a priority by authorities and that they had 95-percent chance of securing a new life in France. Time running out However, the refugee Mohamed says that after his experience in Calais, he expects nothing from French officials. His dreams lie on the opposite shore. All of us here have family or friends in [England]. My father and brother are in London, where they obtained refugee status is less than a month, he says. In theory, the British authorities could offer visas to these Syrians, which would allow them to cross the Channel and file their asylum applications over there, said Mael Galisson, a volunteer with a local Calais migrant protection group. These people are within their legal right to ask for Europes protection. The offer of asylum in Calais now poses a new and difficult question for Mohamed and his friends. Because of international and European accords, being granted asylum in France would make it almost impossible for the refugees to claim asylum elsewhere.
Faith, politics clash over Muslim-run women’s gym in France
“The immigrants want to hold discussions with the British authorities.” Myrian Guerey, a member of the Secours Catholic charity service who served as a mediator between the refugees and the French authorities, said the Syrians — still set on making it to Britain — were “very happy” about the talks. “They have been heard and they want to have a first contact with the British authorities,” she said. In a bid to end the crisis, some 50 police from the CRS anti-riot squad moved in early Friday to try and clear the refugees from the footbridge but backed off when two of them climbed on top of a nearby building and threatened to jump off if they approached. Pas-de-Calais prefect Robin then went to the site and offered the Syrians, currently illegal immigrants, the right to asylum. “Today, the Syrians present here are caught in a stalemate. What we can do is to offer them a status on French territory…in other words to make a request for asylum,” Robin told reporters. He said each demand for asylum had “95 percent chance of success,” adding that he was in contact with the British embassy in Paris. “We cannot take any decision on their access to Britain,” Robin said. “I am not persuading them to settle in France but trying to legalise their status.” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has pledged to fast-track the applications of Syrians seeking asylum. But the protesting refugees, most of whom arrived a month ago in Calais, have voiced disappointment at the way they were treated in France. “We thought that France was the country where human rights are respected,” said Tarik, a 19-year-old from the southern city of Deraa near the border with Jordan. “But we live outside like dogs, hunted down by the police, we see we are not welcome, how can we seek asylum here?” he said. The former engineering student said he was convinced he would find “more humanity” in Britain.
That meant it could stay open, but it did not guarantee it would now be out of the political spotlight. The Orty Gym – Orty means “my sisters” in Arabic – is a 200 square-meter space with pink work-out equipment, freshly-painted fuchsia and orange walls and a large room where classes such as Hip Hop, Zumba, Stretching and Step are offered. Some of the 70 women exercising in the room cover their hair with a headscarf but many do not as all races and religions are welcome, said Lynda Ellabou, who owns the gym with her husband. SECULARISM Ellabou, wearing a fashionable pink and black headscarf, said their problems began in June after Raoult realised the couple planning to open the gym on a commercial strip on the periphery of the suburb of 14,000 residents were Muslim. “When he saw my (bearded) husband he had a shock. ‘You’ve rented a place where?’ he asked us,” Ellabou recalled. “‘You’re going to put a veiled woman at the reception desk too?'” “In the end he made us understand it wasn’t going to be possible to open,” she said, adding Raoult later objected to the gym’s lack of parking and steps leading to the emergency exit. The issue of secularism arose when a Muslim website said the gym had a prayer room in the back. Ellabou said the page was not theirs and the report was wrong, as there is no such room. Full-face veils are banned in public in France. Headscarves are prohibited for civil servants and girls in state schools. Those laws do not apply to private companies, but some politicians are increasingly calling for limits there too.
Rallying-Rally of France leg 1 classification
Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Ford 1:08:56.500 2. Daniel Sordo (Spain) Citroen +00:09.900 3. Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Volkswagen 00:11.800 4. Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen 00:12.200 5. Sebastien Ogier (France) Volkswagen 00:28.700 6. Evgeny Novikov (Russia) Ford 01:03.600 7. Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) Volkswagen 01:26.400 8. Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Citroen 01:33.500 9. Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford 01:37.500 10. Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) Ford 02:36.300