With conditions worsening for refugees in Calais, UN urges comprehensive response

Several thousand asylum-seekers and migrants from Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan are living in makeshift camps or in the streets in Calais, France. Photo: UNHCR/C. Vander Eecken

7 August 2015 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today called once again for a comprehensive response to the worsening reception conditions for refugees and migrants in Calais, saying that the situation in the French port city is unmanageable.

There are an estimated 3,000 refugees and migrants in Calais and in the northern coast of France today – virtually the same number as last November, according to UNHCR. However, the rising death toll among refugees and migrants, at least 10 since the beginning of June, attempting to cross the Channel from Calais to the United Kingdom is a “worrying” development.

UNHCR remains concerned at the dire living and reception conditions in the makeshift sites around Calais.

“UNHCR is reiterating its call made since the summer 2014 for a comprehensive response – first and foremost by the French authorities – to the worsening reception conditions for refugees and migrants in Calais,” spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva, describing as “dire” the living and reception conditions in the makeshift sites around the city.

“Security measures alone, though understandable, are unlikely to be effective by themselves,” she added.

Ms. Fleming said that many of these people are in need of international protection, having fled conflict, violence and persecution in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria.

UNHCR encouraged the French authorities to gradually relocate people from the current informal settlements and provide them, as is the case in most European countries, adequate reception conditions in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region as well as in other locations.

“It is also essential to address the current significant delays for those who want to apply for asylum in France,” said Ms. Fleming, adding that women and children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking and require special attention by the French authorities.

“An exceptional response is urgently needed,” she stressed. “We also call on the United Kingdom and other EU member States to work in a collaborative manner with the competent French authorities in finding solutions for those in need of international protection – namely in cases where there are existing family or other links in another EU Member State in accordance with the existing European legislation.”

UNHCR voiced its readiness to further assist France, the UK and other EU member States in finding practical and comprehensive solutions.


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