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FILE PHOTO: French riot police signal to a migrant who is on his knees as French authorities block their access to a food distribution point in Calais, France, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo


PARIS (Reuters) - France's highest administrative court on Monday ruled President Emmanuel Macron's government and the Calais region must provide hundreds of migrants with drinking water, showers and toilets.

Charities and the national human rights watchdog have been fiercely critical of the squalid conditions facing hundreds of migrants who have converged again on the northern port city after government bulldozers razed a camp known as the "Jungle".

A local court said this year that the authorities must provide access to water, prompting an appeal by the interior ministry and Calais commune. Rejecting that appeal, the Conseil d'Etat ruled that the treatment of migrants was inhuman.

"The Conseil d'Etat considers that these living conditions reveal a failure by the public authorities that has exposed these people to inhuman or degrading treatment," the court said in a statement.

"These shortcomings are a serious and unlawful infringement on a fundamental freedom."

It said the lower court was within its rights to order the provision of toilets, drinking water and showers.

France has avoided the brunt of Europe's migrant crisis, receiving a fraction of the asylum seekers handled by countries like Italy and Germany.

While Macron has called for migrants to be treated with dignity, his own government has taken a tough stance, refusing to open a new migrant reception centre in Calais, saying it would act as a magnet for other migrants.

Last week, Human Rights Watch pressed France to end what it described as recurrent police violence against migrants in Calais, where hundreds have returned despite the demolition of a sprawling camp.

Many of the Calais migrants seek a better life in Britain.

The European Union is struggling to find a coherent answer to a migration crisis that has tested cooperation between member states. Macron has instructed his government to speed up France's asylum process.

(Reporting by Richard Lough, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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