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Calais migrants: France wants more help from UK

The Local/AFP · 4 Aug 2015, 10:33

Published: 04 Aug 2015 10:33 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 Aug 2015 10:33 GMT+02:00

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France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he expects “additional mobilisation” from Britain, the day after London said it would send 100 extra border guards to Calais.

In an interview with the La Croix newspaper Cazeneuve said Britain “needs to go beyond” its recent efforts in tackling the influx of migrants in Calais.

Those efforts have essentially involved paying millions of pounds for extra fencing at the site of the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais as well as extra security.

On Monday the British government said it would send 100 extra Border Force guards to Calais to help prevent the thousands of migrants amassed in the port town from making it across the Channel.

That announcement came after migrants had made thousands of attempts to break into the Channel Tunnel in recent days, including 1,700 on Sunday night alone.

Cazeneuve accepted that the British authorities had become “more involved” in trying to deal with the ongoing crisis and that “contacts” with London had increased in recent months.

Calls to move the border back to Britain

But despite Britain stumping up millions of pounds on fencing and security there is a growing feeling in France that the burden of the crisis is not being equally shared.

Opposition MP Xavier Bertrand said the 2003 agreement between London and Paris that effectively moved British border controls to the French side of the Channel needs to be ripped up.

"Let's let the migrants leave and let Mr Cameron handle his politics in his own way, but on his own island," Bertrand said in an interview for Journal Du Dimanche.

The Touquet accords, were signed by then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, were designed to stem the flow of migrants, but 12 years on, the crisis is arguably as bad as it’s ever been.

Cazeneuve himself said the "one-sided" accord “put a lot on the shoulders of France and very little on those of Britain”, but did not suggest any desire to seek a change.

At the moment both sides are trying to present a united front, that is clearly under strain as the migrants continue to make their way across the Mediterranean and up to northern France.

There was even calls from Britain that France should compensate British tourists who have been caught up in the chaos at Calais.

100 more Border Force guards

On Monday Britain's government promised new measures to crack down on illegal immigrants including sending 100 extra Border Force officials to Calais as the migrants crisis continued to dominate the headlines.

The move, announced by Communities Secretary Greg Clark, is set to be included in a new Immigration Bill that parliament will debate in the coming months.

A hundred more guards are to be placed on duty at the terminal in Calais, while UK Border Force officials are to begin working inside the control room of the cross-channel Eurotunnel from Monday.

Story continues below…

"I think we have got a grip on the crisis. We saw a peak last week, since when the number of illegal migrants has tailed off," said Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond after a meeting of the government's emergency COBRA committee.

"We have taken a number of measures in collaboration with the French authorities and Eurotunnel which are already having an effect and over the next day or two I would expect to have an even greater effect."

Immigration is one of the most sensitive issues in British politics and Prime Minister David Cameron's centre-right government has been battling to bring the numbers down for years.

Images of migrants trying illegally to cross the Channel Tunnel from France to Britain have fuelled calls from political opponents for ministers to do more and Cameron has warned that the situation could last all summer.

In a joint editorial for this week's Sunday Telegraph, the French and British interior ministers warned that "our streets are not paved with gold" as Cameron's government seeks to dispel any perception that migrants have a soft landing in Britain.


The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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