France dismantles a migrant camp at Calais

Briefing Notes, 22 September 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 September 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This morning the French authorities have started to dismantle the makeshift camp in the northern French city of Calais, where mainly Afghan individuals have stayed waiting for a chance to go to the UK. As far as we know, only relatively few of them are still there this morning, most having moved to other locations.

UNHCR recognizes the need to combat smuggling and trafficking of persons, and the right of the French government to maintain public order. We trust that the operation will be carried out in a correct and humane manner. Closing the so-called jungle camp does however not address the phenomenon of mixed and irregular migration, nor does it solve the problems of the people concerned, amongst whom there may be many with protection needs.

UNHCR therefore appeals to the French authorities to look for the best solution in each individual case, as discussed last week by High Commissioner Guterres with French Minister Besson. In particular we call on the French authorities to ensure that those who wish to apply for refugee protection are given access to a full and fair asylum procedure, with an effective right of appeal. They should also be given proper accommodation pending the determination of their asylum claim. Special measures need to be taken for unaccompanied minors.

The situation in Calais underscores, once again, the need for governments in Europe to intensify efforts to arrive at a common European asylum system not only on paper but also in practice.

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Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action

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Mixed Migration

Migrants are different from refugees but the two sometimes travel alongside each other.

Braving the cold in Calais

Many boys and young men from places like Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and the Sudan end up in the northern French port of Calais after a long and dangerous journey. Some have fled their countries to escape persecution, conflict or forced recruitment, others are looking for a better life. Calais has become a transit point where people smugglers have established networks to take these men to other European countries. Their makeshift encampments are regularly cleared by the French police, and they sleep most nights out in the open. They live in fear of being arrested or deported. UNHCR's office in Calais seeks to provide the young men arriving in the city with information about their options and the asylum system in France.

Braving the cold in Calais

Chad Mission Photo Gallery

Chad Mission Photo Gallery

From Paris With Love, Toys for Syrian Children

Every year, the Quai Branly Museum in Paris organizes a collection of toys from schoolchildren in Paris and, with a little help from UNHCR and other key partners, sends them to refugee children who have lost so much.

The beneficiaries this year were scores of Syrian children living in two camps in Turkey, one of the major host countries for the more than 1.4 million Syrians who have fled their country with or without their families. Most of these traumatized young people have lost their own belongings in the rubble of Syria.

Last week, staff from the museum, UNHCR and the Fédération des Associations d'Anciens du Scoutisme gathered up the toys and packed them into 60 boxes. They were then flown to Turkey by Aviation Sans Frontières (Aviation without Borders) and taken to the kindergarten and nursery schools in Nizip-1 and Nizip-2 camps near the city of Gaziantep.

A gift from more fortunate children in the French capital, the toys brought a ray of sunshine into the lives of some young Syrian refugees and reminded them that their peers in the outside world do care.

These images of the toy distribution were taken by photographer Aytac Akad and UNHCR's Selin Unal.

From Paris With Love, Toys for Syrian Children

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Mexico: Fleeing Central American Gang Violence

Tens of thousands of people make their way to Mexico on mixed migration routes every year. They include victims of gang violence who need protection.
Out in the Cold in CalaisPlay video

Out in the Cold in Calais

Despite the sub-zero temperatures, migrants and asylum-seekers continue to flock to the northern French port of Calais in a bid to reach the United Kingdom across the English Channel. Some are from conflict zones and UNHCR wants to make sure they have access to asylum procedures.