French row over plans to move Calais refugees

Immigration is a key issue in France ahead of next year's presidential elections.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Calais has became a hub for thousands of refugees, who hope to reach United Kingdom by either crossing the EuroTunnel or hopping on to ferries.

Plans to create new refugees centres across France were condemned by right-wing critics on Tuesday as "irresponsible" and at risk of sparking a "civil war". For thousands living in the Calais 'Jungle' camp this means finding a new home.  

The Socialist-led government believes housing for some 12,000 refugees is urgently needed by the end of the year, a leaked interior ministry document said.

The accomodation may include long-term shelter for refugees from the Calais camp, that the government has vowed to dismantle, as well as a transit centre due to open in Paris in mid-October.

The camp in Calais is home to some 7,000 refugees, but charities say the number might be as high as 10,000 after an influx this summer.

The details leaked by Le Figaro newspaper outlines plans for refugee centres across the country excluding Paris and the Mediterranean island of Corsica, where the foreign population is the highest.

Calais 'Jungle' camp is home to some 7,000 refugees but charities say the number might be as high as 10,000 after an influx this summer.

Called the 'Jungle', the camp in Calais and its inhabitants are at the centre of a political debate that has intensified since Britain's vote to exit the European Union and before France's wide-open presidential election next April.

Immigration is a key issue in France as politicians gear up for primary elections ahead of next year's presidential polls.

France has differed from Germany's open border policy of last year. Calais has, however, long attracted waves of refugees hoping to cross from the continent to Britain.

Often this involves trying to stow away on trucks taking the ferry to the English port of Dover, or cutting through security fences to clamber aboard trains using the Channel Tunnel.

Most of the attempts end in failure, and a number of refugees have died in the process.

French Security forces raided the 'Jungle' refugee camp on Saturday, using tear gas to force refugees out of the camp.

Earlier on Saturday, French security forces raided the Calais refugee camp, using tear gas to evict refugees from the area.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve had earlier vowed to close the camp in Calais "as quickly as possible" but said it would be done in stages without giving a timeframe. 

The French government has also tried to shut down the camp several times in the past. However the camp has always managed to survive such raids.

One refugee is caught trying to sneak into the UK every six minutes.

Earlier this month, UK government announced its plan to build a wall in Calais to block refugees from getting into the UK. 

The planned wall, to be funded by the British government under an agreement struck at a summit in March, is to complement a security fence already put up around the port and entrance to the Channel Tunnel.

British Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill told the common home affairs commitee, “We are going to start building this big new wall very soon. We’ve done the fence, now we are doing a wall.”

However, Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart later said there would be no need for Britain to build its promised wall in the northern French city once the squalid 'Jungle' refugee camp there is shut down.



TRTWorld and agencies