Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says that the government will spend more than £7 million over the next two years to ease pressure on Calais
Britain is to pay for migrants to be flown from Calais to their home countries and provide support for “dedicated facilities” for those having their asylum claims processed as part of a multi-million pound package, Theresa May has announced. The Home Secretary has signed a deal with Bernard Cazeneuve, her French counterpart, to significantly strengthen Britain’s role in tackling the migration crisis amid concerns the French government is struggling to cope. A new “joint project team” will aim to “maximise the number of illegal migrants who return home”, according to the text of the deal.
It will include a “financial contribution” from the UK to pay for migrants to be processed and flown to their countries of origin. British diplomats will work with the French to secure documents for migrants. France already operates several monthly returns flights from Calais.
Britain will also provide £7.14m over two years to ease the situation in Calais, in what the deal terms a “humanitarian crisis that is unprecedented in recent history”. Some 5,000 people are camped out in a shanty town near the Coquelles Eurotunnel railhead in appalling conditions.
Mrs May said that the government will help set up “dedicated facilities” located a “significant distance from Calais” for those having their claims processed to relieve pressure on the “frontier”. British immigration officials will also carry out an information campaign in Calais to deter migrants from attempting to cross the Channel to “correct any misapprehensions about life in the UK.” It follows moves by the government to deny illegal migrants access to housing and banking. The deal reads: “Border Force officers, operating on the ground, provide migrants with a more dissuasive and realistic sense of life for illegal migrants in the United Kingdom. That reflects the United Kingdom government’s work to render the UK a less attractive place for illegal migrants, including through limiting access to housing and health services in the UK, and through targeting disreputable employers who seek to employ illegal migrants.”
Britain will send translators and analysts speaking languages including Pashtun, Oromo, Tingrinya, Amharic and Tamil to Calais. The French will provide speakers of Albanian, Ukrainian, Dutch, Arabic and Kurdish. A new joint programme will be put in place to protect vulnerable people – and in particular women and children – who are deemed at risk from “evil” trafficking gangs. It will include placing the migrant camps under observation to identify the vulnerable and removing them to safe houses where they can lodge asylum claims.
Photo: Will Wintercross/The Telegraph
In a major expansion of the British effort, the Government has commissioned a security audit of other ports in France and northern Europe that could be used by criminal gangs or targeted by migrants attempting to make opportunistic crossings. James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, has spoken to his Dutch and Belgian counterparts. The ports include Dunkirk, Ostend, Zeebrugge and Rotterdam.
Mrs May admitted that a major drive to increase security at Calais, with new fencing and a British-staffed police command post, could result in migrants simply shifting their focus along the North Sea and Channel coasts.
“We are very aware of the possibility of displacement,” said Mrs May. “The immigration minister has already had discussions with the Dutch and Belgian authorities to look at the work that might need to be done there. Of course, we are looking at other ports like Dunkirk.”
Mrs May and Mr Cazeneuve will be briefed regularly on the “brisk” implementation of the plan, and will hold each other’s civil servants and police offices to account jointly. They will meet every six months, and the British and French ambassadors will meet monthly.
Mrs May said: “This is not a problem that starts here in Calais. It is a problem that starts elsewhere in the world, with
migrants trying to come to Europe with organised criminal gangs, people smugglers trafficking people through into Europe, what is for many of them a dangerous journey. They risk their lives, many of them having paid people smugglers money to try to get them here to Calais and the UK.
“We must break these criminals gangs, and break the link between leaving Africa and other parts of the world and trying to make the dangerous journey and illegally entering Europe.”
She said those trying to reach Europe include “some who will be refugees” but seventy per cent are “illegal economic migrants”.
She said it had been a “particularly difficult summer” for holiday-makers, lorry drivers and local residents on both sides of the Channel.
Recent efforts, including British dog teams, had “stabilised” the numbers of people attempting to enter the UK through Calais.