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What camps are we talking about?

Since 2003, when the first edition of the migrant encampment map was published, Migreurop has been providing a definition of the term “camp”. This terms is used to cover closed centres surrounded by walls, barbed wire and surveillance devices. Given the diversity of administrative devices and technical and humanitarian measures aimed at containing migrants, the Migreurop Network suggested “going beyond referring only to detention to include any premises aimed at the exclusion of migrants [such as]… some “open” reception, transit or accommodation centres. Such centres appear to be designed to provide assistance and shelter, although their “residents” – migrants and asylum seekers – obviously have no option other than remaining there”.

While the Network has always used a relatively large typology of the notion of “camp”, to date only closed centres are incorporated into the Migreurop data base, which is used for most of the maps contained on this website. By closed camps, we mean any premises in which migrants’ deprivation of freedom is complete. They cannot leave the facility in which they are held, except to go to the court or the hospital with a police escort. Although most of these camps are permanent, some are used on a temporary basis. It seems important to include these temporary centres, not only because their use is often repeated (for example, hotels close to harbours and airports which are regularly requisitioned) but also because they constitute an exceptional form of detention, which is no less problematic.

Two detention situations can be distinguished: 1) the person wants to stay in the country or to transit through it. S/he is detained for the time it takes for her or his situation to be examined by the local authorities who decide whether s/he can enter the territory or should be removed; 2) the person is an irregular situation in a State and is awaiting removal (e.g. those who have had asylum applications refused or otherwise do not have the right to remain). However, most of these places combine both functions (examination of the request to stay/ deportation).

What sources do we use?

The information stored in the database is taken from diverse sources: official reports from Interior Ministries, the European Commission and international bodies including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), reports by civil society (at the international, regional, national or local level), field investigations (interviews, visits, etc.), press articles, etc.

The use of different sources to analyse a single variable can present difficulties, in particular for the coherence of calculations done on the basis of data registered in order to develop the maps. For example, in relation to the same variable, the figures published by the Eurostat agency on the number of refusals of entry per year for a given country sometimes differ from those provided by the Interior Ministry of that country or those gathered by an NGO.

While it is sometimes difficult to harmonise different sources, we have agreed on a hierarchy of sources for the database.

In relation to information recorded in the data-sheets on “camps”, the first sources are those coming directly from the field (summary provided by an association which regularly visits a centre, visit of a camp by members of Migreurop, elected parliamentary representatives and international and national independent organisations, etc.) If necessary, this data can be supplemented by official sources (interior ministries, etc.) We also use data sent to us by Migreurop’s member and partner organisations and individual members who have responded to questionnaires.

With regard to the information recorded on the “country” data-sheets (annual figures on detainees, deportations, persons refused entry, etc.), the first sources are figures from European bodies (Eurostat, European Commission, etc.), since in principle efforts to harmonise data have already been undertaken by these bodies. Where these are not available or sufficient, we use the figures provided by national bodies (interior ministries, etc.)

The database is intended to store information on closed camps which have existed since 1980, whether they are still in operation in 2013 or are no longer used by the authorities. However, at this stage the website closethecamps only shows information relating to closed camps  in use in 2013, in 2011 and/or in 2012 and which, to date, have not been close, according to our information. These are the camps shown on the map on the homepage and to which the indicator “number of camps” of the country sheet refers.

When sufficient information on one or more variables (country, years) exists, it is made public, either on country data-sheets or as summary documents (tables, maps, etc.).

We keep a record of all sources used for the input of information into the database.

Through the proposed maps, the site Closethecamps represents an accurate information and figures platform on a subject still little documented: the camps of foreigners in Europe and beyond. The site is based on research work upstream which allowed to create a database. Selecting the most relevant indicators allowed us not only to map the phenomenon, but also to generate statistics and compare different situations across camps and countries. However, this synthesis and mapping have limitations. The main advantage of the database is also its fault: its quantitative dimension. By definition, quantitative work tends to simplify reality to make it more intelligible. The criteria chosen do not always report with finesse the reality and complexity of practices carried out in these places, which are often unpredictable, changeable, elusive, etc.. For example, if Doctors of the World comes twice a week, with a team of five people in a camp where more than a thousand foreigners are detained, saying that NGOs have a “timely access” to this camp only partially reflects the situation . For this reason, the site refers to links and more descriptive and qualitative (reports, notes, etc..) documents that allow, as far as possible, to give substance to situations objectified in maps and graphs.