Date
23 July 2017
About 3,000 migrants have gathered in the French town of Calais, many with hopes of a better life in Britain. Photo: AFP
About 3,000 migrants have gathered in the French town of Calais, many with hopes of a better life in Britain. Photo: AFP

UK-France tensions simmer over migrant crisis

French authorities are engaged in a nightly game of cat and mouse with migrants trying to cross the border.  

In the early hours of Thursday, a group of about a dozen people tried to break into the terminal of the railway tunnel linking France and Britain.

They cut a hole in an outer fence surrounding the Eurotunnel terminal and then scaled a second fence using blankets as protection from the barbed wire.

On any given night, most of the migrants fail in their mission and make the hourlong walk back to their makeshift camps and try again another night.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that about 3,000 migrants have gathered in the French town of Calais, many with hopes of a better life in Britain.

While some migrants are detained for a few hours, many that make it on to the tunnel premises are driven by police back outside of the compound without being arrested or charged.

Authorities say they are swamped and because the vast majority of migrants in Calais are from countries plagued by political persecution or war such as Sudan or Eritrea, they can’t under French law be sent back there.

Emmanuel Agius, deputy mayor of Calais, said police don’t have the capability to detain them all. He added that many of the migrants don’t carry identification or have any money, so “it would make no sense” to charge or fine them.

Agius said Calais isn’t getting the help it needs from the French and British governments, accusing British Prime Minister David Cameron of “deafening” silence.

The British government has said it is up to the French authorities to enforce the law.

Eager to keep border checks on French soil in Calais rather than in Britain, it has offered more assistance in terms of committing about £20 million, (US$31 million) in the past year to reinforce security, including fencing.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

RA 

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