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.