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Tourists 'could be migrant target'


A group of migrants make their way through Calais

A group of migrants make their way through Calais

A group of migrants make their way through Calais

The immigration crisis at Calais could get even worse, with migrants targeting tourist traffic rather than just lorry drivers, a Eurotunnel chief h as told MPs.

Until now, the problem of migrants trying to cross to the UK has been confined mainly to the truck community, Eurotunnel public affairs director John Keefe told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

Mr Keefe told MPs: "The crisis could potentially get even worse. As we approach winter, it could start to overlap on to the passenger market."

He said that, with the holiday season coming on, there would be longer queues of static traffic as people waited to board the Channel Tunnel shuttle trains.

Mr Keefe said: "The slower the flows of traffic through the border, the more opportunity there is for migrants to jump on to vehicles."

The Road Haulage Association's international affairs head Peter Cullum and the UK Chamber of Shipping's head of taxation, ferry and cruise Tim Reardon also told MPs that they regarded Calais as being in crisis due to the migrant problem.

Mr Cullum said the problem should have been sorted out years ago, while Mr Reardon said Calais was now regarded not as a port and a place to do business but as "a place where there is a problem with migrants".

Mr Keefe said migrants were lving in "appalling conditions" in Calais, adding: "I have heard people say they (the Calais camps) are among the worst refugee camps in the world."

Asked about the Government's goal of re-introducing full exit checks on those leaving the UK by the end of this Parliament, Mr Keefe said Eurotunnel still had a number of concerns about how such checks could be implemented.

He said the company was in discussions with the Border Force and with the Home Office.

Later, when Security and Immigration Minister James Brokenshire appeared before the committee, he was rounded on by angry Ian Austin (Lab: Dudley North).

Mr Brokenshire said it was still the Government's aim to reduce net migration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands by the end of this parliament.

But he added that this was now much more challenging.

Asked by the committee's chairman Keith Vaz if this meant the target would not be met, Mr Brokenshire said: "I would not put it in those terms."

Mr Austin accused Mr Brokenshire of using "ludicrous language" and talking "impenetrable bureaucratic nonsense".

Mr Brokenshire said the £12 million that the UK was contributing to ease the Calais problem was spread over a three-year period and included money for the first phase of fencing around migrant areas which would be completed by the end of this month.

He was asked about the problem of migrants from countries such as Libya riskily taking to the sea to reach Europe.

He rejected any suggestion that an attitude of "if they drown, so be it" was being taken with these migrants, adding that the idea was to discourage people from travelling in this way.

Mr Brokenshire said he did not see evidence that the UK visa system was leading to a decrease in the number of applicants by foreign students to study in the UK.

Mandie Campbell, director general of the Home Office's immigration enforcement directorate, told MPs that the directorate did not know the whereabouts of 58 foreign national offenders who had absconded.