French government to take over control of squalid migrant camp

The Grande-Synthe migrant camp in the north of France, 8 March 2016
The Grande-Synthe migrant camp in the north of France, 8 March 2016 Denis Charlet/ AFP

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve traveled to the northern region of Dunkirk on Monday to launch a process for the government to take over control of the Grande-Synthe migrant camp.Speaking on site, Cazeneuve together with French Housing Minister Emanuelle Cosse announced the government will allocate some 3.9 million euros to the camp's management. 


The move reverses the government's earlier position of distancing itself from the camp, which was built last winter by the aid group Doctors without Borders and the municipality, led by ecologist Damien Careme.

Under the new plan, the French state will grant 9.90 euros per migrant per day. At the same time, each empty hut must be quickly dismantled and no new migrant will be permitted in the camp without joint agreement of the state, City Hall and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The move is said to be a necessary first step for the government to soon close the camp for good. There is no date yet, however, for the camp's eventual closure.

As in nearby Calais, which is about 40 kilometres from Grande-Synthe, the vast majority of people living in the Grande-Synthe camp are hoping to secure passage across the channel, into the UK. Its living conditions, however, are said to be much worse than in Calais.

MSF has described the Grande Synthe camp's conditions as some of the worst in the world.

The French government has set up more than 130 reception centres across the country that are meant to handle asylum seekers and process their claims in France. According to Cazeneuve, these centres have received some 4,000 migrants to date.

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