Le camp de La Linière, à Grande Synthe, en Juillet 2016

Sheltering, hosting or receiving refugees: the unresolved ambiguities of the La Linière refugee camp

Michaël Neuman

Director of studies at Crash / Médecins sans Frontières, Michaël Neuman graduated in Contemporary History and International Relations (University Paris-I). He joined Médecins sans Frontières in 1999 and has worked both on the ground (Balkans, Sudan, Caucasus, West Africa) and in headquarters (New York, Paris as deputy director responsible for programmes). He has also carried out research on issues of immigration and geopolitics. He is co-editor of "Humanitarian negotiations Revealed, the MSF experience" (London: Hurst and Co, 2011). He is also the co-editor of "Saving lives and staying alive. Humanitarian Security in the Age of Risk Management" (London: Hurst and Co, 2016).

Portrait de Franck Esnée

His professional career started on stage. First performing in a circus, he moved on to dancing and finally contemporary theatre. As a writer and a director, Franck Esnée has developed an educational method for dance improvisation, which he teaches in prisons and psychiatric institutions. In 2011, he turned to international solidarity and joined Doctors Without Borders as a logistics specialist in Mali then Haiti.
After this, he worked with ALIMA as a logistics coordinator and carried out several missions, mainly in Africa.
In 2015, he was mobilized again during the migrant crisis, first in Greece where he was MSF’s project coordinator, then in France as head of mission. He is today working with Médecins du Monde in the Hauts-de-France region.


Following the dismantlement of the Basroch camp in Grande-Synthe and the resettlement of refugees in the new La Linière camp, in the spring 2016, Michaël Neuman and Franck Esnée wanted to focus their analysis and story on the “camp” – as an object –, its nature and management. This article was originally published in Alternatives Humanitaires #5, in July 2017. 

On March 7th 2016, in the town of Grande-Synthe in the north of France, the La Linière camp was opened to nearly 1,300 migrants who had been living in a fetid undergrowth for a few weeks or months, less than four kilometers away. La Linière was initiated by Damien Carême – mayor of the town –, supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), responsible for building the camp. The project was designed in a hurry between December 2015 and March of 2016, in order to prevent people dying and improve living conditions in the former camp: located between the A16 motorway and the railway, the parcel was equipped with 368 9-square-meter wooden sheds designed for 4 people. Common spaces were created, and the mayor guaranteed freedom of movement to the migrants who came to live there. Initially intended to shelter the migrants throughout the winter, the camp was not opened until March. A year later, when it was destroyed by arson on April 10th 2017, more than 1,500 people still lived in it. Their projects for the future – mostly focused on the U.K. – had not changed. Their immediate environment, however, had been radically transformed: following the Calais camp’s dismantling between October and November 2016 – in which, according to some organisations, up to 10,000 people had lived together – and the similar fate of most of the region’s small camps, La Linière was left as the only gathering place allowed by the State for migrants.

With our first article, we had wanted to reflect on the mobilization and the different people’s rolesSee Angélique Muller and Michaël Neuman, “MSF in Grande-Synthe: lessons from an unlikely coalition of actors”, Humanitarian Alternatives, n° 3, November 2016, p. 42-51, http://alternatives-humanitaires.org/en/2016/11/22/msf-in-grande-synthe-lessons-from-an-unlikely-coalition-of-actors/ in making the building of this camp possible. This time, our analysis and story focus on the “camp” – as an object –, its nature and management.



To cite this content :
Michaël Neuman, Franck Esnée, “Sheltering, hosting or receiving refugees: the unresolved ambiguities of the La Linière refugee camp”, 5 juillet 2017, URL : https://msf-crash.org/en/publications/camps-refugees-idps/sheltering-hosting-or-receiving-refugees-unresolved-ambiguities-la

If you want to criticize or develop this content, you can find us on twitter or directly on our site.