UNHCR urges France to protect Calais asylum seekers
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has urged French immigration minister Eric Besson to ensure that asylum seekers are protected even as France moves to close down a makeshift migrant camp, his spokeswoman said on Friday.
During a meeting with Besson on Thursday, Antonio Guterres told the French minister he hoped that "appropriate measures will be taken to assure the protection of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children," said UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming.
The migrants, many of whom come from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia, should be given access to a "full and fair asylum procedure" as well as the option of assisted voluntary return, said the UNHCR.
France should also provide accommodation for the asylum seekers, it added.
Besson had announced that police will move in by the end of next week to clear out the notorious zone known as "The Jungle" near the Channel port of Calais, where hundreds of migrants gather to try and gain passage to Britain.
Guterres acknowledged the challenges and the strains that smugglers and traffickers have put on the Calais region. He also noted the right of the government to impose law and order.
"However, he noted that among the irregular migrants in the region there are persons in need of international protection," said Fleming, pointing out that there are a large number of unaccompanied children among the migrants.
According to French immigration ministry officials, the number of migrants in the area has already been cut from 700 three months ago to around 300, and that 170 people had made requests for asylum in France rather than heading on to Britain.