Britain and France to Announce Measures to Contain Migrant Crisis in Calais

7 years, 7 months ago - August 20, 2015
Migrants stand near a city sign along a road near the makeshift camp called ''The New Jungle''

Migrants stand near a city sign along a road near the makeshift camp called ''The New Jungle''

After a summer in Britain and France dominated by news of migrants trying to break into the Channel Tunnel, the two countries will announce new security measures on Thursday intended to contain a crisis that has disrupted travel and stirred a fierce debate about migration.

Several thousand migrants remain in a makeshift camp at Calais, France, with many making nightly efforts to break into the Channel Tunnel and stow away on cars, trucks and trains. One migrant even walked most of the 31-mile tunnel, where he avoided being hit by trains but was arrested as he approached Folkestone in Britain.

Under plans set to be formally announced later in the day, British police and border protection forces will work with their French counterparts at a new “command and control center” in Calais. The new body will be led by two senior officers, one English and one French, and will try to target those organizing human trafficking, the British government said.

The deal will be signed by the British home secretary, Theresa May, who traveled to Calais, and the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve.

“In order to secure the inhabitants of Calais but also to control the borders,” Mr. Cazeneuve said after arriving in Calais, “1,300 French policemen are mobilized, and 500 more, just behind me, are here to boost security of the borders.”

Britain is also promising more spending to reinforce the perimeter of the Eurotunnel railhead with tougher fencing, CCTV, flood lighting and infrared detection technology.

Extra search teams, including detection dogs, will be deployed, more mobile French policing units will be added and a security audit will be conducted, according to the British Home Office.

The problems at Calais have disrupted truck drivers and travelers, but they are only a small part of the migration crisis sweeping Europe. In July alone, the number of migrants detected at the borders of the 28-nation European Union rose to 107,500, more than three times the number in the same month last year, according to Frontex, the bloc’s border management agency.

“I believe that in front of this international and very serious issue, which leads to an increase of the migratory flow pressure all around Europe, we must understand here in Calais that the issue goes beyond Calais and even beyond the frame of our bilateral cooperation,” Mr. Cazeneuve said. “It’s an issue that leads us to also work closely with the authorities of the countries from those people come from.”

Although the number of attempts to storm the Channel appears to have fallen recently — Mr. Cazeneuve said the figures were now one-tenth of what they were a few weeks ago — the images of chaos on the border between two of Europe’s richest nations have highlighted the inability of Europe to deal with the migratory crisis prompted by war and economic hardship in the Middle East and Africa.

Under reciprocal arrangements, British officials conduct passport checks on those crossing the Channel on French soil, before their journey, making them reliant on French cooperation. Although some British politicians have criticized France for failing to deal with the migrant problems at Calais, the government has been careful not to do so.

The scenes at Calais have stoked Britain’s debate about migration, however, and last month, Prime Minister David Cameron was criticized after he referred to the large number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean as a “swarm,” although he later said he had not been trying to dehumanize people trying to reach Europe.

Policy makers in Europe face a big collective challenge in dealing with the crisis, and efforts to agree on quotas for European Union countries to accept refugees have achieved only limited success.

“This is an absolute human tragedy, with people who are dying and people who are in terrible situations,” the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Text by The New York Times

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