UNHCR: France decision to close Calais 'jungle' camp welcome; Proper care in next steps crucial

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Earlier this month France’s President Francois Hollande announced that the informal camp for refugees and migrants in Calais, the so-called “Jungle,” will be closed in the coming days, with the camp population to be moved to centres where better help can be provided. 

This is welcome. The Calais authorities estimate that some 6,000 people are staying at the camp. It is vital that they be moved in a planned and organized manner, and that proper alternative accommodation is found for them around the country. People need to be fully informed in advance about the dismantling of the camp. Asylum seekers need to be given proper information and prompt access to asylum procedures.

It is also crucial to pay special attention to the estimated more than 1,200 unaccompanied or separated children in the Jungle, whose best interests have to be taken into account, making arrangements such as special reception centres to ensure their safety and welfare when the site is closed. 

This is important so that children don’t move on to other destinations and risk becoming exploited by human traffickers or end up living on the streets without any support. Strengthened measures must be taken to reunite children with relatives in Europe, such as the 200 unaccompanied children in Calais identified as having family links in the United Kingdom.  

The Jungle site has been problematic for a number of years, and UNHCR has long recommended its closure. Living conditions are appalling, with the most basic shelter, inadequate hygiene facilities, poor security and a lack of basic services.  

UNHCR commends the French authorities on almost doubling in recent years accommodation space in reception facilities for asylum seekers in France, while urging the government to further increase the number of places. An additional 20,000 places would ensure that all asylum seekers and refugees have adequate accommodation while their claims are processed. 

For more information on this topic, please contact:

In Paris, Céline Schmitt, schmittc@unhcr.org, +33 6 23 16 11 78

In London, Andrej Mahecic, Mahecic@unhcr.org +44 788 023 09 85