UN urges France to draw up plan for Calais mi­grants

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

France needs to draw up a “civil emer­gency” plan to give dig­ni­fied ac­com­mo­da­tion to thou­sands of mi­grants who are camp­ing out in the north­ern city of Calais in the hope of cross­ing the Chan­nel to Bri­tain, the U.N. said Fri­day.

The U.N. refugee agency said for the past year it had been call­ing for an “ur­gent, com­pre­hen­sive and sus­tain­able re­sponse” by Europe as a whole, but es­pe­cially by French author­i­ties to the wors­en­ing asy­lum cri­sis and re­cep­tion con­di­tions in Calais.

“Let’s treat that as a civil emer­gency,” Vin­cent Co­chetel, head of UNHCR’s Europe di­vi­sion.

He stressed though that the emer­gency was a small one that could easily be ad­dressed if Paris was will­ing to do so.

“This is a man­age­able tion,” he said.

Some 3,000 mi­grants and refugees, in­clud­ing many flee­ing war and per­se­cu­tion in coun­tries like Syria, Libya and Eritrea, are camped out in a makeshift tent vil­lage in Calais wait­ing for a chance to cross to the UK in what Co­chetel de­scribed as “ap­palling con­di­tions.”

UNHCR also voiced “alarm” at the ris­ing death toll among peo­ple risk­ing their lives to at­tempt to

situa- cross the Chan­nel Tun­nel to Bri­tain, with at least 10 hav­ing per­ished since the be­gin­ning of June.

Co­chetel pointed out that both French and Bri­tish gov­ern­ments had been op­posed to set­ting up a large-scale re­cep­tion cen­ter in Calais for fear it would be­come a “mag­net” and at­tract more peo­ple.

But he stressed that this fear did not re­move their re­spon­si­bil­ity to find an ac­cept­able so­lu­tion, point­ing out that France could easily trans­form some of its many army bar­racks around the coun­try into proper re­cep­tion cen­ters.

UNHCR also de­manded that France ad­dress the “cur­rent sig­nif­i­cant de­lays” for any­one ap­ply­ing for asy­lum, with it tak­ing seven weeks for an asy­lum re­quest to even be reg­is­tered in the Calais re­gion and months be­fore ac­com­mo­da­tion is pro­vided.

He also crit­i­cized the lack of Bri­tish co­op­er­a­tion in deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion, say­ing that Lon­don had re­fused to even con­sider ap­pli­ca­tions for le­gal trans­fer from France of asy­lum seek­ers with close ties to the coun­try.

While the se­cu­rity mea­sures be­ing put in place on both sides of the tun­nel are un­der­stand­able, Co­chetel in­sisted they were only a small part of the so­lu­tion.

“It is not just with more dogs and more fences that we are go­ing to solve Calais.

“We need a com­pre­hen­sive pack­age and we need a sus­tain­able re­sponse,” he said, point­ing out that “we have had that prob­lem for 14 years ... You don’t change ge­og­ra­phy. This will con­tinue.”


In this Wed­nes­day, Aug. 5 photo, Afghan Zubair Nazari, left, speaks with his friend Ab­dul­rah­man as they sit in­side their tent at a camp set near Calais, north­ern France. An es­ti­mated 2,500 mi­grants are cur­rently at the windswept camp sur­rounded by sand dunes that sprung up when a state-ap­proved day cen­ter for mi­grants was opened nearby. The ram­shackle en­camp­ment of tents and lean-tos is re­ferred to as the “jun­gle,” like the camps it re­placed.

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