Britain offers NATO fences to French port to block migrants
Britain will offer the strong security fences used at this week's NATO summit to the French port of Calais, which is struggling to block migrants seeking illegal passage to Britain.
Immigration minister James Brokenshire said Sunday the donated fencing could replace and enlarge the "inadequate" infrastructure currently in place.
His comments come after several chaotic incidents in recent weeks in which mainly African migrants were able largely to get around existing fences and security staff in Calais.
The situation in the city, on France's northeast coast, has prompted its mayor, Natacha Bouchart, to threaten to shut down the port entirely.
She has claimed that migrants see Britain -- around 20 miles (35 kilometres) away across the Channel -- as an "Eldorado" thanks to the way its immigration system is run.
But Brokenshire claimed Britain was not a "soft touch" for illegal immigrants.
"This government has been working hard to restore control to our immigration system, stamping out the abuse that was widespread," he wrote in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
"We have long been alive to the challenges posed in Calais, which has been the access point to Britain from the continent for centuries.
"We will offer our French partners the fences that were used this week to keep the NATO summit safe.
"These could replace and enlarge the inadequate fencing at Calais, which is too easy for illegal immigrants to scale."
French police say there are between 1,200 and 1,300 migrants in Calais, mostly from east Africa, looking for illegal passage into Britain.
Earlier this month, around 85 migrants tried to storm their way onto a ferry to England.
Ramps to the ferries had to be raised to stop the migrants boarding the ships after they forced a gate and climbed over fences, overwhelming security staff.
A second attempt to force another entry into the port failed, as 150 migrants gathered around the entrances to the dock.
Newspaper reports show groups of men trying to stowaway in trucks if they slow down or stop near the port. One woman this month claimed she found an illegal immigrant hiding in the back of her car when she arrived home.
French authorities have arrested around 7,500 illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Channel already in 2014.
Hundreds of would-be immigrants die in the dangerous Mediterranean crossing every year.
Brokenshire said Britain wanted to ease travel difficulties for tourists and trade goods transiting through Calais, too.
"We would like to establish secure parking areas where legitimate hauliers and travellers can wait without being hassled by would-be illegal immigrants," he said.
© 2014 AFP