Republic of France
Ministry of the Interior
From the Minister
Paris, 18 February 2016
In your letter today, which you have chosen to make public, you raise with me the issue of the proposed dismantling of the southern area of the camp and ask me to postpone the evacuation. You seem to attribute this State initiative exclusively to renewed tensions in the Calais area. Anyone with a heart-felt concern of the situation of migrants, and I know that this is the case with you, cannot be satisfied with the situation facing many of them in the camp. Similarly, no-one can argue that these disgraceful conditions are better than those offered to migrants in the temporary reception centre that the State has built, and whose management has been entrusted to the association The Active Life. 1500 places have been created in 125 containers for 12 people, with running water, electricity and heating.
A thousand people still live, however, in the South zone [of the camp], in particularly difficult conditions as you know. While the State is in a position to offer accommodation suitable for all of them, it does not seem responsible to want them to stay in the camp or to perpetuate such a slum.
This priority is at the heart of the action we have conducted, in a spirit of partnership with all the stakeholders involved in Calais. This partnership is a strong point at heart and I hope that continues. Only together can we solve such a complex and delicate situation, which affects the courses of human lives. The tireless work, led by the State, is along two inseparable and complementary paths: On the one hand to strengthen, with utter determination, the fight against the smugglers, living off human misery and those who use the camp as a base to carry out their misdeeds. In this regard, I recall that 28 networks that were operating from Calais were put out of harm's way by my services in 2015. This is twice more than in 2014. On the other hand, to offer migrants living in the camp a humanitarian response. You have contributed very directly to this fundamental action. I want to thank you and invite you to continue our cooperation in this direction.
You state in your letter that the idea of the temporary reception centre would be insufficient. I remember the criticisms heard during the opening: the centre would not be attractive because of its secure access, which would have frightened most migrants. Six weeks after opening, it is clear that 1195 people have joined and that 80 places are available daily for immediate occupation. The centre has demonstrated its attractiveness, and migrants willingly leave the cold and mud to join it. You state further that the centre would not be suitable as it would not provide a social area. But I observed that the teams that carrying out this work create shared spaces which are highly valued by migrants, such as 3 areas and 3 social spaces of 80m2 each. Two of them are dedicated to the men and one is for families with toys and mats available for children. A nursery will open soon. Improvements are certainly possible, offering migrants more social spaces in the north of the camp. I will listen to any proposal you would like to make and we could discuss them.
Regarding the Reception And Orientation [CAO or Winter Respite] centres, and you know 102 such centres were opened throughout the country since 27 October. They are all small reception units, human in scale, all offering an appropriate quality of support in a friendly place where they are accompanied socially and in their administrative procedures. This initiative is subject to close control exercised by me with the greatest attention, which I am fully prepared to share with you. I want to tell you as well that two statements were published on the operation of CADA [Asylum Seekers’ hosting centres], my weekly services meet all regional prefects to create projects and discuss their implementation, and weekly follow-up surveys are undertaken. To date, 2665 people have been oriented to CADA from Calais and Grande-Synthe [the Dunkirk camp]. These 2665 are in addition to 1600 departures from Calais to the CADA or AT-SA in a year. During a whole year, more than 4200 people were able to receive guidance in a place suited to their care.
With particular migrants oriented to CADA, specific monitoring of the progress of people who are accommodated there is done by all State services: at national level and at local level, ensuring they are offered options as flexible as possible. The establishment of each centre has been specifically monitored by the prefectures (which have mandated, at my request, departmental coordinators dedicated to this task) to ensure that the home is not limited to mere sheltering, but provides adequate benefits, and that the creation of these structures is done in harmony with locally elected officials. The cost to run these centres is high, often more than 25 Euros per day per person, because I believe that the quality of support is one of the keys to their success. The initial feedback is positive: the vast majority of migrants in CADA request asylum in France. At the last count, more than 80% of remaining CADA migrants were engaged in an asylum procedure. These CADA enable migrants who have acquired refugee status to obtain a referral to the French authorities to find suitable homes for protecting their needs. CADA migrants starting rate is low (less than 20% regardless of the method of calculation) and probably inevitable in such structures, even if we make sure it is as limited as possible. These centres are open: I invite you to visit one of them at your convenience for you to realise for yourselves the reality of their implementation.
I also recall the unique effort that the State has made to direct asylum-seekers to their dedicated hosting as soon as possible. In this regard, the government is currently conducting an unprecedented effort for the accommodation of asylum seekers, with the creation of 13,630 places of CADA, 4000 AT-SA places over two years, with 500 places of temporary accommodation (2015 and 2016). Calais migrants naturally benefit as they engage in the asylum procedure in France.
I have also asked my services to systematically inform the British authorities of migrants present in CADA files who might qualify for legal entry into the United Kingdom – particularly those with family ties, in compliance with European regulations. I will ensure that all the dossiers submitted under this procedure will be sympathetically considered.
The situation on the camp cannot continue. Men and women who survive, after particularly traumatic life events, deserve better than a life under a tent or in a shed, in the illusory expectation of passage to the UK that was fraudulently promised them by the people-traffickers. We must, together, continue to work to offer them dignified solutions and the opportunity to rethink their life choices.
The evacuation of the southern zone must be completed. It will be, gradually and with respect for people, taking into account each individual's situation and providing guidance to the interim care centre, reception and guidance centres or one of the dedicated facilities for vulnerable people, according to their needs and therefore everyone's needs.
Please accept, Distinguished Presidents, the assurance of my highest consideration.