Britain, France say ending Calais migrant crisis is 'top priority'

1st August 2015, Comments 0 comments

Ending the crisis that has seen thousands of attempts by migrants to reach England from Calais in recent weeks is a "top priority", the interior ministers of France and Britain wrote in a joint statement Sunday.

Both countries are committed to tackling the problem together and have beefed up security to deter further bids by desperate migrants to smuggle themselves to Britain via the Channel Tunnel, the statement said -- a risky undertaking it said had caused "serious injuries and, tragically, deaths".

"Tackling this situation is the top priority for the UK and French governments. We are committed and determined to solve this, and to solve it together," Bernard Cazeneuve and his British counterpart Theresa May wrote in a statement published in France's Journal Du Dimanche and in Britain's Telegraph newspaper.

Hundreds of migrants have tried to make it into the undersea tunnel in recent weeks in the hopes of finding a way onto a train or lorry headed for Britain. At least 10 migrants have died attempting the dangerous journey since June.

Cazeneuve met with May in London on Tuesday to discuss the migrant issue, which has been a thorn in the side of Franco-British relations for years but has taken on fresh urgency following a spike in the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Earlier this week, the British government pledged 10 million euros ($11 million) to improve fencing around the Eurotunnel rail terminal in Coquelles, outside Calais.

And British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has warned that the crisis could last all summer, promised "more fencing, more resources, more sniffer dog teams" to aid French police in their nightly cat-and-mouse game with the migrants.

The new measures sent "a clear message", according to May and Cazeneuve. "Our border is secure, and there is no easy way into the UK."

They said the world was facing "a global migration crisis" that required a European and international response, and warned that the burden of tackling the problem should not lie with Britain and France alone.

"Many of those in Calais and attempting to cross the Channel have made their way there through Italy, Greece or other countries," the pair wrote.

Ultimately, the crisis had to be addressed at the roots by "reducing the number of migrants who are crossing into Europe from Africa" for economic reasons.

"Our streets are not paved with gold," they said, adding that both governments were currently sending back around 200 migrants a month who do not qualify for asylum.

Separately, a French opposition MP from northern France on Sunday accused Cameron of failing to grasp the "severity of the problem", and said the migrants should not be stopped from going to England if no stronger measures were taken.

"If he continues not to propose anything else, let's let the migrants leave and let Mr Cameron handle his politics in his own way, but on his own island," lawmaker Bertrand Xavier, a former employment minister, told Journal Du Dimanche.


© 2015 AFP

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