Entre 1 000 et 1 500 migrants vivent à Calais, dans le nord de la France. Crédit : Reuters
Entre 1 000 et 1 500 migrants vivent à Calais, dans le nord de la France. Crédit : Reuters

According to Didier Leschi, director general of the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII), all exiles, regardless of their administrative status, can benefit from accommodation in reception centers in northern France. Many irregular migrants generally refuse to go there, for fear of being detected and deported.

InfoMigrants: Are migrants systematically offered shelter when camps are evacuated in Calais?

Didier Leschi: "Yes, shelter is offered twice a day, in the morning and in the early afternoon, via shuttles on rue des Huttes.

Before this, there were buses on site during dismantling operations to bring migrants to accommodation, but aid organizations have filed a lawsuit to challenge this practice.

Read more: Five years after the 'Calais Jungle', conditions for migrants continue to deteriorate

On the other hand, not all migrants in Calais are willing to go into shelter. The refusal rate is two out of three people."

IM: Associations claim that the shelters are far from Calais, does this partly explain why migrants do not want to go there?

DL: "The state is determined not to leave Calais in the hands of smugglers. It is not the state's job to facilitate the work of traffickers. The authorities are therefore offering accommodation far from the coast."

IM: Associations also explain that many migrants in Calais have been through the Dublin Regulation in another country. Do they refuse to go to the shelters, for fear of being put back on the street?

DL: "It is true that in Calais, some people even refuse to register because they are Dublined*. When I hear associations claim that because of their status the migrants are put back on the street, I want to say that this is completely false.

*The Dublin Regulation is a European law that means that the asylum application depends on the first country of arrival in Europe (generally Spain, Greece and Italy). Many migrants are afraid of being deported back to the country in charge of their file. To avoid being detected, they generally refuse to go to structures where there are administrative agents.

First of all, Dublin removal procedures take months, not weeks. As a proof, 30% of the people who register as asylum seekers in France have Dublined in a different state. And they are integrated into the national reception system. We do not refuse to house Dublined migrants: there are thousands of them in centers throughout the country.

In Île-de-France, one out of two asylum seekers has been Dublined. And they are still directed to the region, they are not thrown out or sent back.

This is why I insist on the fact that migrants in Calais must register with the prefecture, Dublined or not. The fact of being Dublined is not an obstacle to accommodation.

On the other hand, people with different administrative statuses do not accept to be taken care of either. We have people [non-Dublined, undocumented, ed.] who can file for asylum in France but don't."

IM: Why, then, do you think the migrants in Calais don't want to go to these centers?

DL: "They don't want to leave Calais. They are there because they want to get to England.

They think that they will have better lives in the United Kingdom. But many of them are exploited by their community to pay for part of their journey. To go to England is to be welcomed by a community that will exploit you to pay your debts.

Read more: 'My plan has always been to get to the UK': 21-year-old Harish, stuck between borders

We must remind migrants that France is a country that protects and that it would be better if they stayed here.

This is the case for Afghans in particular. Before, there were many of them in the north of France, but now we see very few. The majority of Afghan nationals are now looking to settle here, not to go to England."

IM: Right now, between 1,000 and 1,500 migrants are living in Calais. What is the state doing to assist them?

DL: "The situation in Calais is still complicated even if it has improved. It's true that about 1,500 people live in the city, but there are 10 times fewer migrants now than in 2016 [at the time of the 'jungle' which had up to 10,000 migrants crammed together, ed.].

Calais is the place where there is a concentration of a certain form of incoherence in the treatment of asylum requests. Some of the migrants in the north of France have been wandering around Europe, sometimes for years, because their applications have been rejected in another country.

But this does not prevent the state from being active in the region and taking individual cases into account. The authorities subsidize more than a hundred associative jobs in Calais to take care of migrants, they finance meals, a shower system, and health care through the PASS [permanence d'accès aux soins de santé, ed.] of the city.

There is a constant effort to help migrants on the part of the authorities, who have invested significant financial resources."


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