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MPs hit back at French president over criticism of UK stance on Calais migrants

Published 26/09/2016

Mr Hollande said Britain must be involved in the
Mr Hollande said Britain must be involved in the "humanitarian effort" that France is undertaking

Francois Hollande has come under fire after claiming Britain must "play its part" in managing the Calais migrant crisis as France prepares to close down the Jungle camp.

The French president spoke of his "determination" that UK authorities are involved in the humanitarian effort being carried out by his country.

But his remarks drew a furious reaction from MPs, while Downing Street said Britain has done a "huge amount".

The UK has committed around £85 million in total to reinforce security in the Calais region.

In one British-funded project, work has started on a barrier dubbed the "Great wall of Calais" - a 13ft (4m) high concrete structure being built along the main motorway to the port in northern France.

Reports suggest the wall will cost £1.9 million as part of a £17 million cash injection announced in March.

Last year Britain provided an extra £7 million towards increased security at the Channel Tunnel railhead at Coquelles - on top of a £12 million pot that had already been pledged.

Tory MP for Dover Charlie Elphicke said: "Francois Hollande says he will dismantle the Calais camp. But we've heard it all before.

"The French government needs to make sure it actually happens this time and that the people they remove are stopped from just moving back to Calais.

"Britain has already paid millions for walls and fences in Calais. Yet the French keep asking for more of our money.

"Our taxpayers' money should be spent on more border security at Dover and in the English Channel.

"Hollande needs to get a grip and make sure the people from the Jungle are returned to their home nations to end this crisis once and for all."

Conservative MP Tim Loughton, interim chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: " It has largely been down to considerable expenditure by the UK Border Force, Eurotunnel and ferry companies that more people have not embarked on the hazardous journey into the UK, whilst French authorities have effectively all too often turned a blind eye.

"President Hollande now has the cheek to say that the UK is not pulling its weight in assisting with a humanitarian crisis in France, which is entirely of its own making whichever EU or non-EU undertakings he cares to abide by."

Collaboration between the two countries over Calais is likely to feature in the build-up to next year's French presidential election, with some politicians suggesting a long-standing agreement on border controls could be scrapped unless radical changes are made.

Mr Loughton added: "Before an increasingly unpopular President Hollande or any of his rivals try to play the 'Calais card' to rescue their political campaigning, they should look to put their own house in order first and acknowledge the real source and cause of these problems."

Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said Britain had done a "huge amount" to help deal with the migrant situation in France by investing tens of millions of pounds into various projects.

"I think we are doing an awful lot and will continue to do so," he said.

A Home Office spokesman said the dismantling of the camp "is a matter for the French government", adding: "We remain committed to protecting our shared border in Calais and are working closely with the French to do so."

The spokesman said the UK Government has made "crystal clear" its commitment to resettle vulnerable children and ensure those with links to the UK are brought here, while it will continue to support the French government as it provides alternative accommodation to migrants in the camps and returns those not in need of protection to their home countries.

Speaking on his first visit to Calais as President, Mr Hollande said his government is preparing to "completely, definitively" dismantle the Jungle by the end of the year.

The camp's estimated 9,000 occupants will be moved to reception centres across France, with 40 to 50 people being held at each of the sites for up to four months while authorities investigate their cases.

Plans to close the camp were welcomed as the "best route forward" by the Freight Transport Association.

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