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Calais migrants: UK to spend extra £7m on security boost

Published 28/07/2015

A migrant trying to board UK bound lorries on the main road into Calais ferry port (PA/file)
A migrant trying to board UK bound lorries on the main road into Calais ferry port (PA/file)

Britain has agreed to spend an extra £7 million to tackle the Calais migrant crisis amid criticism of its handling of the tunnel invasions.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced the funding to step up security at the Channel Tunnel railhead in Coquelles after a meeting between government officials and their French counterpart to discuss the disruption.

It comes after thousands of migrants stormed Eurotunnel's French terminal in Calais causing chaos for cross-channel travel.

The operator said the nightly breaches appeared to be too much for the Government to handle.

Mrs May said: "We've had a very constructive meeting. The French and UK governments are working in close collaboration and cooperation on this issue which affects us both.

"We are both clear that we need to ensure we are dealing with the terrible criminal gangs, the people smugglers, who are making a profit out of the human misery of many people."

Mrs May said French authorities have committed extra resources to security at Calais.

Asked why British taxpayers should be paying for a problem taking place on French soil, she said: "We have juxtaposed controls at the border. We work together on dealing with this particular problem."

The Home Secretary said she was "very aware" of the impact of the crisis on lorry drivers, those affected by delays and the people of Kent.

Earlier this month, she announced that a new secure zone will be created at Calais for UK-bound lorries in response to an unprecedented surge in migrants attempting to cross the Channel.

Over the course of Monday night some 2,000 migrants attempted to breach the fences at the Eurotunnel terminal.

A spokesman for the company said: "This is an issue that is a really for the Government to sort out. We need them to stop the migrant flow from Calais but it appears to be too much for them to handle.

"It was the freight terminal and there was some damage to our fences - which we'll have to repair - as they tried to board shuttles. Fortunately, there wasn't any damage to shuttles. Unfortunately, a number of people were injured."

He added: "It is an almost nightly occurrence - we're trying to run a travel business here."

The migrant crisis has escalated in recent months, with thousands displaced from countries including Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan setting up camp near the port.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the army should be drafted in to help search vehicles coming into Britain for illegal immigrants.

He told LBC: "In all civil emergencies like this we have an army, we have a bit of a TA and we have a very very overburdened police force and border agency.

"If in a crisis to make sure we've actually got the manpower to check lorries coming in to stop people illegally coming to Britain if in those circumstances we can use the army or other forces then why not."

The Home Office said 1.2 miles of fencing will secure each side of the platform at Coquelles. It is being supplied from the security fencing used at a Nato summit in Newport last year and will be in place by the end of the month.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Maintaining law and order on French soil is a matter for the French authorities, but we continue to work closely with them to bolster security at the ports in northern France.

"The Home Secretary and French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve met today to discuss this work, and our wider collaboration to resolve the migration pressures in the Mediterranean, which is at the root of the situation in Calais and Coquelles.

"They reaffirmed both countries' determination to find practical solutions - both to tackle the immediate pressures, and in the longer term, through joint work on development and diplomacy in source and transit countries, action against the organised immigration crime gangs who are exploiting vulnerable people, and the need to ensure an effective returns programme for illegal migrants."

At today's talks, France and Britain also agreed to work together on returning migrants to their countries of origin, particularly those arriving from West Africa.

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