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Sangatte: UNHCR establishes permanent presence

Briefing notes

Sangatte: UNHCR establishes permanent presence

18 October 2002

Following an initial basic identification exercise by the French Red Cross, UNHCR has now established a permanent presence inside the Sangatte centre, near Calais. That presence currently consists of an advance team of international staff who will interview the residents of the camp. The objective is to compile a profile of the Sangatte residents and provide them with one-to-one legal counselling and advice.

The numbers inside the centre can vary considerably from day to day, even between lunch and supper. However, the Red Cross census indicates that the roving population of the centre may total more than 3,000 people originating from some 50 countries. On average, however, there are around 1,700 people in the centre at any one time. About 100 new arrivals enter the centre daily. More than 80 percent of the camp's total population originate from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan.

The residents of the camp are a very diverse group and they seem to have opted to shelter in Sangatte for quite a variety of different reasons. There are a number of especially vulnerable individuals such as unaccompanied minors, disabled persons and single women.

Since the establishment of the field-based operation, six Afghans have approached UNHCR seeking assistance to repatriate to Afghanistan. UNHCR interviewed all of them in depth and five of them flew home from France on Wednesday, benefiting from the provisions of the recently-signed Tripartite Agreement between France, Afghanistan and UNHCR. Their travel was paid for by the French government and they also received a generous repatriation grant of 2,000 euros each. The sixth Afghan who requested to return has a broken leg and he was advised to remain in France until it has healed.

UNHCR is also preparing a mass information campaign to explain its objectives to the residents of the camp.