UN refugee agency welcomes France’s decision to close Calais ‘jungle’ camp

14 October 2016

The United Nations refugee agency today welcomed the announcement by President François Hollande earlier this month that France will close the informal camp for refugees and migrants in the northern port town of Calais, stressing the vital importance of finding proper alternative accommodation for the thousands of people there.

“It is vital that they be moved in a planned and organized manner, and that proper alternative accommodation is found for them around the country,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

“People need to be fully informed in advance about the dismantling of the camp. Asylum-seekers need to be given proper information and prompt access to asylum procedures,” he added.

Dubbed ‘the Jungle,’ the site, estimated to host some 6,000 people, has been problematic for a number of years, and UNHCR has long recommended its closure, Mr. Edwards said, pointing out that the living conditions are “appalling,” with the most basic shelter, inadequate hygiene facilities, poor security and a lack of basic services.

The camp will be closed in the coming days, according to France, with people there to be moved to centres where better help can be provided.

“It is also crucial to pay special attention to the estimated more than 1,200 unaccompanied or separated children in the ‘Jungle,’ whose best interests have to be taken into account, making arrangements such as special reception centres to ensure their safety and welfare when the site is closed,” the spokesperson said.

He explained that “this is important so that children don’t move on to other destinations and risk becoming exploited by human traffickers or end up living on the streets without any support.”

Strengthened measures must be taken to reunite children with relatives in Europe, such as the 200 unaccompanied children in Calais identified as having family links in the United Kingdom, he said.

UNHCR commended the French authorities on almost doubling in recent years the accommodation space in reception facilities for asylum seekers in the country, while urging the Government to further increase the number of places.

An additional 20,000 places would ensure that all asylum-seekers and refugees have adequate accommodation while their claims are processed, Mr. Edwards said.


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