• Present until 2016 in Calais, the NGO Doctors Without Borders had ended its mission after a transfer of competences with the permanence of access to care.
  • Seven years later, "faced with the under-sizing of dedicated state systems", MSF is deploying a new mission on the ground.
  • The team, composed of six people, will ensure a mission of psychological assistance and care.

In 2016, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ended its mission with migrants in Calais. Not because the situation on the ground was resolved, far from it, but because a transfer of powers had been carried out with a system of permanent access to health care (Pass). Except that, seven years later, the NGO found that this was no longer sufficient in the face of the physical and psychological distress of the exiled people present on the coast.

"At the time, it was an emergency project, because there was a need to quickly get people to safety. Today, the context is such that the needs are still there, because policies have not changed, or even worsened," says Serena Colagrande, spokesperson for MSF's France mission. "The systematic dismantling carried out by the police, sometimes violently, the confiscation of personal property, marginalisation and obstacles to solidarity have led to an ever greater precariousness of exiled people and contribute to the deterioration of their health," Pauline Joyau, MSF Calais project coordinator, said in a statement. An observation that led the NGO to redeploy a team in Calais.

"Physical violence" and "traumatic experiences"

In addition to this coordinator, the team is composed of a nurse, a psychologist, a social worker and two cultural mediators. All go to the camps, but also to day care centres and reception houses, in particular to raise migrants' awareness "about mental health issues, identify the most vulnerable cases through psychosocial activities and direct them to the Permanence d'accès aux soins or the hospital", details the NGO. During their patrols, MSF team members have already seen recurrent pathologies, including respiratory problems related to cold and lack of treatment of infections, or traumatological pain related to attempts to cross by truck. Not to mention the "physical violence during their migratory journey" and "traumatic experiences", such as the shipwreck in the English Channel.

MSF admits that there are fewer migrants today than in 2016, "because crossings are easier," we are told. "Easy" passages, but not safe. Between 1999 and 2023, "more than 350 people lost their lives in France, Belgium, the United Kingdom or at sea trying to reach England," MSF said. Dramas that the NGO blames on the "reduction of safe and legal access routes to the United Kingdom".

MSF also denounces the "obstacles to relief organized against associations, as well as the pressure on volunteers". All these reasons make it impossible to determine an end date for the NGO. "Our vocation is not to stay in Calais forever, but we will stay as long as it takes, until a system that works is put in place with care adapted to these people who have experienced violence," says Serena Colagrande.

  • Society
  • Calais
  • Pas-de-Calais
  • Hauts-de-France
  • Nord-Pas-de-Calais
  • Migrants
  • Msf