With fevers reaching tipping point over the Calais migrants trying to enter Britain, Cahal Milmo separates truth from fiction.
Claim: Up to 2,000 migrants a night are targeting the Channel Tunnel site
The reality: These figures, provided by the French police, refer to the number of detected attempts to enter the Eurotunnel freight site and not the number of people. Over the last month some 200 to 300 migrants have sought enter the terminal each night. This week the number has risen to about 500. According to reports, some 150 have succeeded in reaching Britain. One man has been killed - the ninth since June.
Claim: Calais is “swamped” by migrants trying to reach the UK.
The reality: There is no doubt that there has been a dramatic increase in the migrant presence. Some 39,000 attempts to cross the Channel illegally were thwarted in 2014-15 - more than double the number from the previous year. The number of migrants living in camps, including the semi-official “new jungle” shanty town, has also risen sharply from about 800 in 2014 to around 4,000 at present. It is likely to fall again after the summer but welfare groups say large numbers will continue to flow the French port for the foreseeable future.
Claim: The British Army can solve the problem
The reality: Calls to dispatch troops to France are ludicrous. Calais is French territory and even the suggestion of the presence of British soldiers would risk a diplomatic rift. The notion that the French military should be deployed has also been floated but is equally a non-starter because Paris, rightly, considers the crisis a civil matter. Some 500 Gendarmes and French police are currently deployed in Calais and have made more than 18,000 arrests of migrants in 2015.
Claim: The migrant crisis is costing the British economy £250m a day
The reality: The disruption to cross-Channel traffic is having a significant impact but at nowhere near the level of £250m per day - the estimated daily value of trade passing through Dover. While consignments have been delayed they have not been lost. The costs are nonetheless significant. Hauliers are losing an estimated £750,000 a day through delays and the £2m per week cost of throwing away spoilt cargo. It should be noted that much of the disruption this month has been caused by striking French ferry workers, not migrants.
Claim: Migrants are armed and dangerous
The reality: There have been confrontations between truckers and migrants, with drivers claiming they are threatened with weapons such as knives and metal bars. To date, there have been no prosecutions of migrants for such attacks. Video shot by a Romanian lorry driver appeared to show migrants descending from a truck near Calais being beaten up by a group of truckers. Similar claims of brutality by French police are also being investigated.
Claim: Improved security in Calais will deter the migrants
The reality: Since last autumn, Britain has pledged £21m to fund measures to tackle the problem. New 5m-high fencing, topped with razor wire, now protects the entrance to the ferry port. This is a key reason why migrants’ focus has swapped to the Tunnel in recent weeks. Similar fencing has now been pledged for the Tunnel but experts point out that migrants and people smugglers constantly re-invent their tactics and the wider issue of migration into the EU is far from being solved. One likely effect is that UK-bound migrants will simply target other Channel ports.
Claim: Hundreds of migrants are still reaching Britain from Calais
The reality: No-one knows how many migrants are succeeding in crossing from Calais because the Home Office does not publish specific figures. Certainly, a number succeed, including more than 600 minors in the last three months. There were 31,945 applications for asylum in the UK last year. Germany by contrast had 202,815. France had 64,310 - twice the number of the UK.