SHARE
COPY LINK

IMMIGRATION

UK slammed for giving asylum to tunnel walker

The company which operates the Channel Tunnel said on Tuesday Britain's decision to grant asylum to a Sudanese man who walked the passage between France and England was "unfortunate".

UK slammed for giving asylum to tunnel walker
Photo: AFP

Abdul Rahman Haroun, 40, was granted asylum on December 24, after being arrested on suspicion of walking through the 31-mile (50 kilometre) tunnel in August.

“It is unfortunate because it can give bad ideas to certain migrants and encourage them to risk their lives,” a spokesman for Eurotunnel told AFP.

The Channel operator has struggled for months with migrants storming their premises to get into the tunnel and attempt to make their way to Britain.

Stepped-up security has significantly slowed the attempts to get through, but in mid-December between 800 and 1,000 migrants made a desperate bid to storm the tunnel, resulting in clashes with security forces.

Local government estimates up to 4,500 people fleeing war and poverty in Asia, the Middle East and Africa are living in notoriously squalid conditions in a makeshift camp in Calais known as the “Jungle”.

Many of the refugees and migrants want to reach Britain because they speak English, or because they have relatives there, others simply believe their chances of a better life are higher in Britain.

At least 18 have died since last June trying to get across the Channel, but Haroun was one of the few make it through alive.

He was arrested in Kent, in southeast England, and charged under an 1861 law on malicious damage with causing an obstruction to an engine or carriage using the railway.

His case was on Monday postponed for two weeks while prosecutors weigh whether to proceed with it.

With security tight around the Calais Jungle, authorities in Belgium said this week that a growing number of migrants are seeking to leave for Britain from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, located some 130 kilometres (80 miles) north of Calais.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

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.

SHOW COMMENTS