UN agency voices concerns as France dismantles migrant camp

22 September 2009

The United Nations refugee agency has appealed to French authorities to consider the protection needs of individuals who had been staying in a makeshift camp in the northern city of Calais which the Government began to dismantle today.

The people living in the camp, known as the ‘jungle,’ are mainly Afghans waiting to move to the United Kingdom.

“As far as we know, only relatively few of them are still there this morning, most having moved to other locations,” Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news conference in Geneva today.

“We trust that the operation will be carried out in a correct and humane manner,” he said, noting that UNHCR recognizes the need to combat smuggling and trafficking of persons, and the right of the French Government to maintain public order.

“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,” said Mr. Mahecic.

Therefore, UNHCR appealed to the French authorities to look for the best solution in each individual case. In particular, French authorities should 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, the agency stated, adding that 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,” said Mr. Mahecic.


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