12 Jul 16 08 Dec 16

France: Refugees and migrants must not be shunned from humanitarian camps

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is calling on French authorities to provide entry for migrants and refugees to a camp in northern France, and to begin providing long term solutions for stranded refugees and migrants.

On 7 July 2016, six Afghan men have been refused entry to a refugee and migrant camp in, Grand Synthe, near the town of Dunkirk.

Set up in March 2016, the camp was constructed to offer shelter to all migrants and refugees needing safe lodging and basic services in Grand Synthe.

The town council that manages the site in partnership with the French government and the camp manager, the AFEJI (a local youth and disability association), now say that men travelling alone will not be allowed access to the camp.

This decision comes amid growing pressure put on refugees by authorities in northern France. 

MSF is extremely concerned by this decision and calls for it to be immediately overturned.

Disabled, minors, and pregnant women turned away

“Eighty percent of people here in the camp are men travelling alone”, explains MSF’s head of mission Franck Esnée.

“By denying them access to the camp, the authorities in charge of running it are negating its very purpose, which is to provide migrants with decent living conditions, regardless of who they are.”

This is not the first time migrants and refugees attempting to enter the Grande-Synthe camp have been turned away.

Between 22 June and 2 July alone, MSF documented 34 migrants – including three minors, one disabled man and one pregnant woman – who were initially denied access to the site.

These people were turned away by the camp’s manager, the AFEJI, even though there was enough space to accommodate new arrivals.

French government must overturn decision

Additionally, local government officials posted a letter in the camp, threatening to evict migrants and refugees if they stayed too long. This goes against the founding principles of the camp that MSF constructed in partnership with the Mayor of Grande-Synthe.

MSF calls on the French government to overturn this decision and instate a real policy of assistance to migrants and refugees in the north of France.  MSF stresses that this camp must remain open to people seeking refuge. 

No restrictions of entry should be put into place if the limitations on the camp’s capacity have not been reached.

Restricting entry to the camp will have disastrous consequences on people in need of assistance. 

Alongside the numerous volunteers and partner organisations that work in the camp, MSF is determined to prove that an alternative policy for receiving and welcoming refugees does exist.

Find out more about MSF's work in France