The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today welcomed the joint declaration signed by the Governments of France and the United Kingdom on the situation in Calais and the associated action plan to deal with it.
“I appreciate that the two Governments have taken a common approach to address the complex situation in Calais,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in a press release.
“I welcome, in particular, the humanitarian and protection elements of the plan, while fully recognizing the importance of combatting smuggling and trafficking, which exploit vulnerable individuals.”
Mr. Guterres highlighted that to be effective in cracking down on smugglers and traffickers, the number of legal avenues for people in need of protection to come to Europe must be increased.
“Many of those in Calais are likely to be in need of international protection, having come from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. We look forward to working closely with France and the UK to support efforts to find solutions for them,” continued the High Commissioner.
UNHCR specifically welcomed measures to improve living and reception conditions in the Nord-Pas-de- Calais region – as well as in other locations – and the parallel efforts to address asylum access and accommodation issues. The action plan, which addresses the needs of the vulnerable in Calais, includes the rapidly growing group of women and children.
“Calais remains only a symptom of broader refugee and migration movements and UNHCR hopes for robust action to be taken in implementing the European Agenda on Migration and in establishing effective forms of international cooperation, including with countries of origin, first asylum and transit,” Mr. Guterres concluded.
The increased number of sea arrivals is due to the deadly and unabated conflict in Syria as well as the deteriorating conditions for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. Continued support to refugees and countries bearing the brunt of global forced displacement is vital.
In early August, the High Commissioner called for a comprehensive response to the situation in Calais. According to UNHCR, there are now an estimated 3,000 refugees and migrants in Calais and in the northern coast of France – virtually the same number as last November. 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 UK is a “worrying” development.