Sangatte: the three aspects of UNHCR's involvement
UNHCR welcomes the agreement announced by the French and UK governments last Friday on a process leading to the closure of the Sangatte centre near Calais. The Sangatte situation had not only become an extremely thorny issue between the two countries, but has also had a detrimental effect on the wider asylum debate in Europe.
UNHCR will be involved in three specific aspects of the process leading up to the closure of the centre:
First, UNHCR staff will carry out an initial registration of the residents. During this process they will also provide information to the residents about their various options, including information related to their possible protection needs.
Second, UNHCR has also undertaken to assist with organizing the voluntary repatriation of any Afghans in the centre who decide to return home based on objective information given to them about the current situation in Afghanistan. UNHCR has also agreed to coordinate the repatriation with the Afghan government. The return programme will be along similar lines to those being proposed for Afghans elsewhere in the world. It will involve a package that will include financial assistance and careful counselling before they depart, as well as integration into UNHCR assistance programmes once they are back home in Afghanistan.
Third, unaccompanied minors, once identified, need to be moved to specialized centres. UNHCR will take direct and appropriate actions in Afghanistan in cases where it decides it is in the children's best interests to repatriate. This might, for example, include cases where close family members can be located in safe parts of Afghanistan.
More details on all aspects of UNHCR's involvement will need to be worked out in future meetings with the relevant authorities.