France frees migrants detained in Calais raid

23rd April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Nine migrants are still in the custody of French authorities and will be charged with people trafficking.

LILLE – French authorities have released around 190 undocumented migrants, officials said Wednesday, one day after a major police operation against a squatter camp in the Channel port of Calais.

Only nine of the approximately 200 migrants detained in Tuesday's raid were still in custody, police and judicial officials said, as prosecutors decided whether they should be charged in relation to people trafficking.

Aside from the nine being held for questioning, nine more have been freed pending hearings on whether they should be expelled from France for breaching immigration rules, Boulogne prosecutor Jean-Philippe Joubert told AFP.

Of the others, the vast majority have simply been freed to return to Calais and resume their attempts to cross the Channel illegally to Britain, although some minors among them have been placed in care homes.

Tuesday's sweep, in which 500 police officers sealed off one of Calais' most notorious squatter camps and searched motorway rest areas, was attacked by rights groups as a media stunt ahead of a ministerial visit.

Immigration Minister Eric Besson is due in Calais on Thursday to announce measures to deal with the problem posed by the hundreds of migrants sleeping rough there while seeking means to continue on to Britain.

Most of those arrested on Tuesday were Afghans.

Besson last visited Calais on 27 January and promised that he would come up with a permanent solution to the problems posed by the migrants by 1 May.

Until November 2002, many of the arrivals from Asia, the Middle East and Africa crossing France en route for what they believe would be a better life in Britain were housed at an organised camp in Sangatte, near Calais.

The then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is now the French president, closed the centre following pressure from London, which said it encouraged migrants to make the illegal and dangerous trip across the Channel.

Since then, however, travellers have continued to arrive in the region. As their numbers have built up in the woods and dunes in and around Calais they have become a concern to local officials.

AFP / Expatica


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