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IMMIGRATION

Jihadis may be hiding in Calais, says ex-terror cop

A former British counter-terror chief has raised fears that Isis jihadists are hiding out in the Calais refugee camp, which opened new sheltered accommodation for migrants on Monday. Aid groups have rubbished the suggestion.

Jihadis may be hiding in Calais, says ex-terror cop
Photo: AFP

As shipping containers start to replace the tents and tarpaulin at the New Jungle migrant camp in Calais a former counter-terrorism chief from Britain said Isis fighters may be hiding among the refugees.

During a visit to the camp for a BBC documentary Kevin Hurley a former head of police counter-terrorism said the camp may be a refuge for returning jihadis to “hide in plain sight” before “smuggling themselves” into the UK.

Hurley was told by migrants that there were “dangerous people” operating inside the camp and one Iraqi-Kurd told him: “Of course Islamic State jihadis were in the camp”.

Speaking after the documentary for BBC’s Inside Out programme Hurley added: “I was told people from Islamic State were definitely in there.

“The fact is, we have absolutely no idea who is there because it’s completely unpoliced. It is precisely the sort of place I would hide if I was a jihadist – in plain sight.”

“I’m very concerned about the possibility of criminals and terrorists hiding here as they wait for their chance to slip into Britain,” said Hurley who is currently Surrey police’s crime commissioner.

“These people are extremely determined. They are not going to give up.”

Fears that jihadists would hide among refugees to sneak into Europe were heightened after it emerged two of the Paris attackers had travelled through Greece posing as refugees.

The British government has long been concerned the same tactic may be used by would-be terrorists to get into the UK.

However those who have spent far more time in the New Jungle than Hurley have dismissed the ex-policeman’s claim as “stupid” and “scaremongering”.

“These people are the ones fleeing war, so it’s a totally stupid thing to say,” Vincent de Coninck from the charity Secours Catholiques told The Local.

“It’s not intelligent to say things like this, because it only stigmatizes the refugees who are there, who are in need of aid.”

Clare Moseley who founded the charity Care4Calais told The Local: “The overwhelming experience of both myself and the Care4Calais team is that all the individuals we meet in the camp are just ordinary people who have experienced terrible things and desperately need our help, support and compassion.

“The people here in the camp fear ISIS and the like as much, if not more, than we do. ISIS is the reality they flee from.”

Jean Francois Corty, who heads up the Medecins du Monde operation in Calais told The Local he had no idea of the presence of jihadis in the camp but the question should not hide the real humanitarian disaster that is taking place.

“It's not because there might be a jihadist in the camp that people should be left to sleep outside with no food and water,” he said.

“There's people in real danger here.”

(New containters replace thetents atthe so-call 'Humanitarian Camp'. Photo: AFP)

 

The row comes as the Jungle in Calais takes on a different form with Monday seeing the new sheltered accommodation for refugees open to a number of families.

Shipping containers have been converted into sheltered accommodation for the refugees which will replace some of the tattered tents and tarpaulins that have only provided minimal cover for the refugees.

There are fears that the new semi-permanent structure will end up like the infamous Sangatte detention centre, which had to be closed in 2002, after being overrun by criminal gangs.

The new camp, being built alongside the Jungle has been named “the humanitarian camp” by French authorities, who have been under pressure to improve conditions for migrants living in the squalid shanty town.

Eventually around 1,500 people will be offered shelter in the containers.

But aid groups say it’s not enough, considering there are between 4,000 and 6,000 refugees and migrants in Calais.

So we are unlikely to see the end of the sprawling mass of tents anytime soon.

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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