France, Britain to sign cooperation deal on migrant crisis

18th August 2015, Comments 0 comments

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and his British counterpart Theresa May will sign a deal this week to try and alleviate the migrant crisis in Calais, the government said Tuesday.

The deal -- which will be signed in the northern French port -- will focus on securing the area where thousands of people desperate to get to Britain have gathered, tackling human trafficking rings and improving humanitarian aid for migrants, France's interior ministry said.

The situation in Calais has hit the headlines in the past weeks as migrants make attempt after attempt to enter the under-Channel Eurotunnel to reach Britain, some paying for it with their lives.

Last month, a Sudanese man in his 30s died, apparently crushed to death by a lorry. At least 10 people have been killed since June trying to get to Britain where many already have family and work is perceived as easier to find.

Some 3,000 people from Africa, the Middle East and Asia are camped in Calais in slum-like conditions, and while France and Britain have tried to present a united front in tackling the crisis, the issue has strained ties between the two countries.

Politicians in Britain have accused France of security failings, while London has been slammed by Paris for making it too easy for migrants to work illegally, thus luring them to its shores.

Britain has pledged £22 million (31 million euros, $34 million) so far towards improving security at the French end of the Channel Tunnel.

And Prime Minister David Cameron promised "more fencing, more resources, more sniffer dog teams" to aid French police in their nightly cat-and-mouse game with the migrants.

The two ministers will visit the site around the Eurotunnel rail terminal in Coquelles outside Calais where security has been increased, sparking a recent drop in the number of attempts by migrants to breach the tunnel.

Cazeneuve will then travel to Berlin to meet his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere for talks on Europe's migration policies, his ministry said.

Germany, as Europe's biggest economy, has become the top destination for refugees and the Handelsblatt newspaper on Tuesday quoted government sources as saying the number of people seeking asylum could surge to 750,000 this year, far above the 500,000 initially predicted.

The country has recorded more than 200 arson attacks against homes for asylum-seekers this year, and Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Sunday that the issue of asylum could become a bigger challenge for the European Union than the Greek debt crisis.

EU border agency Frontex on Tuesday reported a record high of 107,500 migrants at the European Union's borders last month.

And the number of migrants arriving in crisis-hit Greece is accelerating dramatically, with nearly 21,000 landing on the overstretched Greek islands last week alone, the United Nations said.


© 2015 AFP

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