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Announced in much improvisation by the interior minister visiting Calais October 21, 2015, the creation of which first receives various names, including “respite centers”, before receiving the designation Reception and Orientation Centers (CAO in French), appears as a novelty rather well received by some of the associations (see here, here, here, here and here).

Referring few years back, simillar actions of the State have already been set up under the name of Ulysses, starting from the closure of the Sangatte Centre in 2002.

On December 13 2002, the interior minister address the Prefect of Pas-de-Calais and the other prefects an instruction entitled “Remoteness of non-deportable aliens present in the vicinity of Sangatte,” while 6 CRS companies are deployed on the ground as part of Odysseus and Concorde operations. These raids, after which the deportable migrantss are sent in detention centers, the others being taken to places of accommodation scattered throughout the rest of France, where “voluntarily” return aid and asylum in France are proposed to them.

The operating mode put in place in October 2015 is nearby. Firstly daily roundups (see here, here and here), with the dispatch of fifty people in detention centers all over France. But the purpose is not this time deportation, since most people are released after five days to make room for a new group of people arrested in Calais. This is to scare and disperse the people. These raids ceased in December 2015.

Access to the accommodation arrangement is organised differently, as is done on a voluntary basis, without constraint to file an asylum application, but it has the same will of a State to send the people away from Calais. Another difference there is in 2015 in the shantytown of Calais a large number of asylum applicants and of persons granted refugee status without accommodation. This explains the success of the device at first, since it enabled those people who chose to remain in France to finally reach an accommodation.

The raids of the winter 2002 – 2003 failed to remove the exiles from Calais. In May 2006 is set up the device Ulysses 3, also based on the raids, especially during camps or squats evictions. People were scattered in centers everywhere in France, where they had the choice between assisted “voluntarily” return, the asylum in France or Prefectural Decree of deportation (APRF). In fact, the vast majority of people left these accommodations and returned to Calais.

Given the failure of the device, instructions were given to prosecutors by a statement of January 31 2007 to prosecute persons who received APRF (the mere fact of being illegally resident was then an offense in France, which has changed under the influence of EU legislation). Then the device shut down and has been replaced by accommodation of individuals “choosing” assisted “voluntarily” return.

See Chapter 6 of the thesis of Olivier Clochard, “The singular situation in the Calais region”, 2007, pages 56 and 67, you can download here.

See also the report of the French Coordination for the Right of Asylum “The law of the Jungles”, 2008, pages 54 and 102-103, which you can download here.


Ulysse sirènes