IOM Appeals for Wider European Response to Calais Migrants

Posted: 
08/04/15

France - IOM views the evolving situation in Calais and at the Eurotunnel with concern – especially for the most vulnerable migrants including women and children – and calls for broader, longer-term measures to address the wider phenomenon. 

Some 3,000 to 5,000 migrants are currently reported to be encamped in Calais, while IOM estimates that nearly 200,000 migrants have already arrived to the European Union (EU) by sea this year.

“IOM believes that the human dimensions of the situation in Calais must be prioritized as France and the UK deal with important security concerns and the disruption of tourism and commerce,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. 

Many of the migrants now in Calais come from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria, highlighting the international protection issues at stake. There are also significant numbers of people from sub-Saharan Africa stranded in a precarious situation with few alternatives available to them. 

Ten people are known to have died while trying to cross the Channel (either on the highway or at the Eurotunnel terminal) since June 1, 2015. An estimated 2,010 people have died on Mediterranean routes to the EU this year.

As most of the migrants now in Calais first entered the EU via Italy and Greece, IOM views this as a European Union issue requiring an EU-wide response based on shared responsibility.

"The number of migrants arriving is absolutely manageable for the EU, given its vast size and resources. A wider and longer-term approach needs to be taken that also encompasses the immediate situation confronting France and the United Kingdom," said Eugenio Ambrosi, IOM Regional Director for the EU, Norway and Switzerland. 

"Europe has a moral and a historic responsibility to respond in a humanitarian way," he added.

First and foremost, European countries need to consider the provision of increased and durable international protection for the majority of those arriving in the EU. The improvement of adequate legal routes to enter the EU in a safe and dignified way also needs to be urgently addressed.

In contrast to the alarmist and negative rhetoric surrounding the issue, migration can be part of the remedy to ongoing economic stagnation in some EU member states. Europe needs migrants for its economy and competitiveness, especially given the forecast decline of the working age population. 

IOM is also concerned that stop-gap measures such as fences and barriers being planned or erected in the EU, including in Calais and at the Eurotunnel, may not only be ineffective in controlling irregular migration, they also make it more dangerous for migrants, while increasing demand for smugglers.  

IOM is working to enhance migrant services and information campaigns in countries of origin and transit to help counter the lures and dangers of human trafficking and smuggling.  These initiatives seek to offer potential migrants a full picture of the risks involved in irregular migration to the EU, as well as the array of alternatives and other assistance available to them.

Information campaigns in EU destination countries can also inform migrants of their options and to help them to make informed decisions. This includes the option for irregular migrants to return home in a dignified manner with reintegration assistance, if they so choose.

For further information, please contact Ryan Schroeder at IOM’s Regional Office for the European Economic Area in Brussels, Tel: +32.2.287.71 16, Email, rschroeder@iom.int