Illegal Migration-European Countries Can- Malta Can’t
Britain is too soft on Calais immigrants, says France
By Peter Allen
Last updated at 1:58 AM on 29th January 2009
France has called on Britain to toughen up its act against the tide of illegal migrants crossing the Channel.
During a crisis visit to Calais, France’s hardline new immigration minister Eric Besson criticised his London counterparts.
He claimed that lax security in the Channel Tunnel and at ferry ports was encouraging thousands to try to enter Britain illegally, causing huge problems for the French.
In an upcoming meeting with British immigration minister Phil Woolas, Mr Besson will make it clear that there will be no new version of the Red Cross refugee centre at Sangatte, near Calais.
He said a permanent hostel would only serve as a springboard for the migrants already in the northern French port – and as a magnet for thousands more to arrive.
He hoped to silence repeated calls by aid agencies for a new shelter for migrants to be set up in Calais.
The original Sangatte hostel was blamed for becoming a stepping stone to Britain for more than 50,000 refugees over five years.
It was finally bulldozed in 2002 in a joint agreement between and France.
Since then, refugee charities have provided food and clothing to bedraggled immigrants in Calais, but not given them overnight shelter.
Hundreds now live in filthy conditions in a woodland shanty town near the ferry port called the ‘jungle’.
The appalling conditions and fighting over food have triggered frequent clashes between rival immigrant gangs and police. A London journalist was raped by an Afghan refugee last year after visiting the camp to write a news article.
Mr Besson was in Calais today to explore ways to help solve the immigration crisis which has plagued the northern French coast for a decade.
He said: “I don’t pretend to have all the answer today but I am visiting Calais in the hope of finding them.
“I hope to have made final decisions on what to do about Calais by May 1.”
He added: “But I will say now that it is out of the question to reopen a new hostel for immigrants in Calais.
“This would only help the immigrants that are there already to remain there or cross illegally to Britain.
“And it would become a powerful incentive for more immigrants to come there.
“It would also not be a solution to the humanitarian problem. It would be an extra humanitarian problem.
“I will meet with British officials in the coming days and I intend to make the ferries and channel tunnel watertight to illegal immigrants.
“Our British partners must commit themselves more actively in the reinforcement of checks and security at Calais, in their own interests and ours.”
Mr Besson also said earlier this week that he is set to bring in legislation that would allow DNA testing of new immigrants arriving in France.
The tests would establish which foreigners were genuine refugees and which were claiming visas by making up fictious family ties with those already in France.
The DNA scans will be for applications for visas of more than three months when there are doubts about an immigrant’s birth or marriage certificates.
Civil liberties groups reacted furiously to the scheme, which was approved by the French parliament 15 months ago but does not come into effect until Mr Besson has signed the legislation – a move which until now has been delayed by protests.
But Mr Besson has now said he wanted to enact the proposals, adding: “If the decree is accepted, I will scrupulously respect all individual liberties. It’s not my obsession.”
But immigrant welfare activist Daniele Lochak, former president of GISTI immigrants support group, said: “It’s obvious that applicants who refuse DNA tests will have every chance of having their visas refused.”
The cost of up to £350 per test would also to be beyond the reach of many immigrant families, he said.
France civil law also says that taking and examining a person’s DNA can only be for medical or scientific research, meaning magistrates will have to authorise the new immigrant tests.
Outgoing immigration minister Brice Hortefeux recently announced that France deported 30,000 illegal migrants in 2008 – a record number.
It was a rise of more than 25 per cent on the number expelled the previous year.
Pledge: French immigration minister Eric Besson, right with Afghan refugees at the ‘Jungle’ camp at Calais, also promised never to open a new Sangatte
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