Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Seventh Report

Appendix 6

Summary of Sangatte Research

"Foreigners in transit at the Sangatte Centre"

1  This research was conducted in 2001/02 at the Sangatte Centre by a French sociologist, Smaïn Laacher and a colleague and completed in June 2002.

2.  The study was based on questionnaires administered to 284 residents by the "mediateurs" at the Centre, and on 50 interviews with residents and 20 with Red Cross staff.

3.  The sample used for the study (reflecting the population of the Centre at the time) was composed predominantly of Afghanis, Iraqis (Kurds) and Iranians.

4.  The main characteristics of the people sampled were that they were:

  • mostly male (only 14 women)
  • young (average age 25: 22 for Afghanis, 27 for Iraqis)
  • single (but 83 were married, with a total of 204 children)
  • relatively well-educated (only 20 per cent had no secondary education; 15 per cent had achieved qualifications equivalent to the baccalaureate and 26 per cent had gone beyond that).

5.  Other significant factors were that:

  • most had travelled individually rather than in groups
  • most had left their countries because of war or political persecution (only seven per cent because of unemployment)
  • half had been asked to migrate by their family
  • for most (80 per cent) the journey had taken over a month and for half over three months
  • the average cost was $6000; 53 people had paid over $10,000, ten of them over $15,000 (the Afghanis had paid considerably more than the Iraqis)
  • for most the payment had already been made in full.

Reasons for coming to the United Kingdom

6.  The report contains a lengthy section examining the reasons why those in the sample were determined to go to the United Kingdom. Most (62 per cent) said they had a specific destination in mind when they left their own country, although the great majority knew little or nothing about it. Of those who said they had chosen their country of destination most (58 per cent) had chosen the United Kingdom.

7.  Speaking English made little difference to the choice of destination. The only factor that correlated significantly with the choice of the United Kingdom was the presence of friends or relatives in the United Kingdom, although even this was not a determining factor. Nor was it just a matter of family ties: it was often because a family member in the United Kingdom had paid for the journey.

8.  The authors of the report believe that the most important determining factors in choice of destination are the experience of the journey itself (not least at Sangatte), including information from smugglers, and the reception accorded in the countries through which they have passed rather than a fine calculation of asylum procedures in different countries or of levels of benefit. Most of those in the sample had travelled through Turkey, Greece, Italy and France often (it was said) being subjected to (decreasingly) unpleasant experiences by the authorities in each. The United Kingdom was the end of the line and the only country which they had not experienced. At the same time the United Kingdom was regarded as meeting an asylum seeker's basic needs (primarily accommodation but also access to work) more promptly and in a more dignified way than France. There was a lot of feedback to Sangatte from people who had made it to the United Kingdom.

9.  Most of the sample would stay in the United Kingdom if they succeeded in getting there. A small proportion (12 per cent) wanted to move on to the USA or Canada. Only a quarter would stay in France, if they failed to get to the United Kingdom.


10.  The authors do not believe that Sangatte is a magnet to people in countries of origin. The great majority of the sample had not heard of Sangatte until they were en route and over half not until they reached France.

11.  The authors believe that closure of the Centre, would have the opposite effect to that intended, leading to the reappearance of asylum seekers in the Channel ports in larger numbers than before. But they are concerned that it could be changed into a detention centre. They recommend:

  • changing the reception arrangements
  • radically improving the conditions
  • excluding the people-smugglers.


12.  The author's main conclusions are that:

  • the EU should not restrict but extend rights of protection
  • the smugglers not the victims should be criminalised
  • people in an irregular position should have some legal protection
  • concentration on strengthening borders will not stop people coming
  • the combination of economic globalisation and the proliferation of international instruments are serving to "universalise" immigration and asylum
  • no solution is possible without a "redefinition of relations between 'les pays dominants' et 'les pay dominés'".

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