Délégationdu Pas-de-Calais

Calais : The Defender of Rights issues recommendations on the difficulties of access to human rights of migrants

In France the Defender of Rights (“Défenseur des droits”) is appointed by the President of the Republic. He or she is an independent state official who oversees and protects individual civil rights. The present Defender of Rights is Mister Jacques Toubon. Members of Jacques Toubon’s staff have visited Calais twice, on 16-17 June and again on 20 July 2015. They met migrants in the “jungle” (the unofficial camp tolerated by the authorities), visited the Jules Ferry Centre adjacent to it (a reception centre for men which also provides accommodation for women and children) and also spoke to relief organisations supporting migrants and representatives of the police and the prefecture (the local official who represents the central government in the region).

The team has issued an 85-page report which addresses two issues : the humanitarian situation of the migrants and police violence which has been seriously criticised by the relief organisations. The report is available in French at the following address :


Below is an English translation of the press release issued by the Defender of Rights following the publication of the report.

October 6, 2015

Disturbing breaches of the fundamental human rights of migrants on the Franco-British border are not new. They have been an issue for twenty years.

The first submission issued by the Defender of Rights following his appointment in June 2011 was on the situation in Calais. After an inquiry lasting several months and two visits to the area he published a general report on the situation of migrants in the Calais area at the end of 2012. At the end of 2014 he issued his observations on the setting up, during the summer of 2013, of procedures for filtering access to the site for the distribution of food to the migrants at Calais. He also received, at the beginning of 2015, several complaints ranging from the difficulties of accessing medical care to the behaviour of the forces of public order.

In two missions which took place on 16-17 June and 20 July 2015, teams from the Defender’s department visited the principle places where the migrants were living in Calais, notably the informal camp adjacent to the Jules Ferry Centre, which provides accommodation reserved for women and children and is the centre for providing medical care.

From this in-depth inquiry, the Defender of Rights has drawn a number of conclusions and has issued several recommendations in a report published today on the difficulties that the migrants, living at Calais against their wishes, experience in accessing their fundamental civil rights.

The Defender of Rights :

- Recalls the unconditional nature of the right to emergency accommodation guaranteed by law and stresses that the public authorities are compelled to offer immediately alternative accommodation to all migrants constrained to live in the informal camps. He demands expressly that an inventory of financial resources be prepared.
- Recalls the instruction issued to prefects, in the circular of 26 August 2012, to ensure the accompaniment of persons expelled from the states of which they were resident, underlining the obligation to ensure continuity of education for minors and access to medical care.
- Recommends that financial means and supplementary material be allocated to the management of the Jules Ferry Centre, that at least ten additional water points be installed in the zone concerned and that regular rubbish collections be put in place.
- Demands, with respect to access to health care, that the budget allocated to the sanitary and social welcome centre (PASS) be increased and that a “mobile PASS” be created to operate directly in the camp.
- Demands that special measures and financial, material and humanitarian means for minors, accompanied or not, be put in place for those in the Calais area.
- Draws the attention of the public authorities to the extreme vulnerability of women in the Calais area and recommends the provision of immediate shelter to all the unaccompanied women in the camp. It is recommended that the number of places to accommodate women and their children be tripled.
- Deplores that the violence described in his report of 2012 has not disappeared, the use of tear gas even having become “frequent” and is actively investigating the complaints that have been lodged with him since the beginning of the year.

However, exclusively humanitarian responses, urgent as they are, cannot suffice ; Calais is a symptom, spectacular though it is, of the limitations of an immigration policy followed by the European Union which aims at reducing legal means of emigration. In this respect, the Defender of Rights recalls that the right to leave a country, including one’s own, notably to request asylum, is a right internationally and constitutionally recognised.

In this regard, while welcoming the opening since the beginning of 2015 of many procedures for the request for asylum, the Defender of Rights recommends the suspension, at least temporarily, of the Dublin III regulation.

The events of the last few months, of which Calais is just an example, reveals the urgent necessity of finding new responses which, without sacrificing security needs and the struggle against people trafficking, allows the welcome of men, women and children in the true respect of their fundamental rights which France prides itself in recognising.

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