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IMMIGRATION

Tourists shocked by Calais migrants scramble

A video showing migrants trying to smuggle themselves onto a UK-bound truck in northern France in front of shocked tourists has been posted online and has since gone viral.

Tourists shocked by Calais migrants scramble
Migrants swarm a truck in the northern port of Calais. Photo: YouTube (screenshot)
“Don't panic guys, we've locked all the doors.”
 
These are the words of the guide or driver on a tourist coach trying to reassure audibly concerned passengers on the outskirts of the northern French port town of Calais.
 
A one-minute video of the scene, showing dozens of migrants flocking to a truck in an attempt to smuggle themselves across the border and into the UK, was uploaded to YouTube earlier this month.
 
The video has had over 500,000 views on YouTube.
 
Shocked tourist passengers in the background can be heard discussing the scene.
 
One woman is heard saying “oh my God” and “we've seen this stuff on TV.”
 
As one male passenger moves to sit next to the coach door, apparently in case anyone tries to board another is heard saying “Don't they police this stuff?”
 
The guide, clearly stunned himself,  struggles to explain what is happening over the microphone and why, simply saying: “They are not allowed into the country”.

 
The comments of the driver and the date of upload suggest that the video was filmed last Sunday when access to the port of Calais was closed as de-mining teams defused several World War II bombs discovered during construction work.
 
Migrants in Calais have proved a headache for authorities and truck drivers of late, with the latest flare-ups due to the wars in Libya and the Horn of Africa. 
 
Thousands of migrants are crossing the Mediterranean Sea by overcrowded boats, only to disperse across Europe, with many heading to the UK hoping for a better life in what many consider to be an El Dorado.
 
The EU, meanwhile, has been frantically searching for a solution, with its latest measure to introduce migrant quotas for each country.
 
France was told to take in 9,000 migrants over the next two years, but has since demanded a revision to the figures, claiming there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed.

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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