One year after the dismantlement of the Calais camp, different authorities of the French State and UNHCR have evaluated the response to the plight of thousands of people living in squalid conditions in the hope of reaching the United Kingdom.
High protection needs
The French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) noted that nearly 15,000 persons transferred out of the Calais camp over the past two years have had their asylum applications examined, within a time limit of three months. 70% of the people who sought asylum after being transferred from Calais to a CAO were granted international protection at first instance, while some have pending cases before the National Court of Asylum (CNDA). This concurs with OFPRA’s assessment of protection needs one year ago.
The inclusion of CAO in the French reception web
Reception and Orientation Centres (CAO) were originally established throughout the French territory as ad hoc locations to accommodate individuals against the backdrop of dismantlement operations in Calais, and have now been entrenched in the reception system of the country.
UNHCR has published its assessment of the operation of CAO and Reception and Orientation Centres for Unaccompanied Children (CAOMI) so far. The report, following visits to 48 such centres, makes an overall positive assessment of the establishment of CAO as an efficient framework to allow people to register an asylum claim. UNHCR nevertheless stresses the need for more clarity and legal and financial certainty on the operation of the CAO and their role within the complex reception framework of the country. It also refers to the issue of access to services and cites CAO such as those in Decize or Dreux, established in urban centres, as good examples which enable residents to benefit from services and greater autonomy.
As regards the situation of 1,693 unaccompanied children accommodated from Calais and Grande-Synthe, UNHCR recalled that the evacuation was carried out in a climate of “great confusion”, as children were transferred to CAOMI without any information on destination or possible solutions. Transfers to the UK also operated in opacity, without clear information on the criteria applied by the British authorities. While the report refers to a total 850 children accepted by the UK so far, recent written statements in the UK House of Commons reiterate the Home Office position that “it is vital that children claim asylum in France; that is the fastest route to safety.”
For its part, the French Ministry of Interior has published an assessment of police and security operations in the area of Calais. The Ministry highlights the “particularly difficult context” in which police forces operate and commits to maintaining controls at the border and to preventing the re-establishment of makeshift camps. It also refutes cases of police abuse reported by Human Rights Watch last summer.
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