Calais welfare centre will lure more illegal migrants to Britain
Richard Ford, Home Correspondent
From The Times
April 14, 2007
A planned welfare centre offering showers and soup to migrants near Calais threatens to encourage illegal immigration into Britain, the Conservatives claimed yesterday.
The new centre will provide information on how to claim asylum to the hundreds of migrants sleeping in makeshift camps in an area known as the jungle.
John Reid, the Home Secretary, will raise the issue when he holds long-arranged talks with Franois Baroin, the new French Interior Minister, in London on Tuesday.
But the Home Office made clear that the primary item for discussion was counter-terrorism rather than the threat of illegal immigration.
Opponents of the Calais plan have already described the facilities as Sangatte II after the refugee camp shut down in 2002, but the new centre will not provide anywhere for migrants to sleep. It will offer food, showers and information and advice to the hundreds who are now sleeping rough.
Damian Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, said that the proposed centre would act as a magnet by encouraging people to congregate and attempt to enter Britain illegally.
Its clearly Sangatte II. I think its hugely disappointing that the French Government is allowing this to happen, he said.
They made an agreement with the British Government a few years ago that they werent going to have facilities in Calais which just encourage people to arrive there to try to come to this country illegally.
Its disappointing that our own Home Office doesnt seem to be doing anything about this. As I understand it, they are saying, Its no Sangatte II, we shouldnt worry about it.
Mr Green said that most of the refugees were being transported by commercial people-traffickers, whom he described as some of the most evil people in the world.
He accused the Home Office of being appallingly complacent over the issue.
No minister from the Home Office commented on the planned welfare centre yesterday. Instead Lin Homer, the director general of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, and Brodie Clark, the head of UK border control, were put forward for media broadcasts.
David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: This is a serious situation. It speaks volumes about Dr Reids attitude to dealing with this situation that there is not a minister in sight.
Any Home Secretary should take responsibility for his or her brief and not hide behind officials.
Officers from Kent County Council have visited Calais on a fact-finding mission during which they discussed the plans with local officials.
They hope that it will not become a pull factor encouraging other migrants to head towards Calais and then to try to enter Britain. But the officers admit that this will depend on how the French authorities police the centre.
Richard Ashworth, the Conservative MEP for the South East, said that the new centre had the right intentions, but ultimately they are creating another hub for people wanting to enter the UK unlawfully.
A Home Office spokesperson said: There have always been humanitarian services for migrants in the Calais area. We have had assurances from the French that they are opposed to any centre which will attract illegal immigrants and traffickers.
Official figures show that the number of illegal immigrants detected entering Kent from Calais fell 88 per cent from more than 10,000 in 2002 to 1,500 in 2006.
The Red Cross-run Sangatte refugee camp in northern France closed in December 2002 after an agreement between Britain and France.
1999 Sangatte Red Cross Centre opens
400 Original number held
1,500 By December 2002
2002 Closed under Anglo-French deal
1,200 Migrants taken by Britain under deal
300 Migrants taken by France
67,000 Passed through it during its operation
Source: Home Office
It seems the answer to this problem is to check thoroughly EVERY SINGLE lorry before it boards a ferry with x-rays, heartbeat monitors and dogs, particularly around the axles. Money would be better spent here than in the legal farce that is the asylum 'system'.
Maybe you could try living with them Pierre as you seem to have no objections to them going through x-amount of safe countries to get here. It's just a shame its not just people like you forced to fund all this
John, Salford, England
Of course they are queeing to go to China or Russia. Immigrations is a worlwide phenomenon. It has always existed and it will always exist.
Nothing can will them. Maybe you could try living in their country in the same conditions and you will dream of the rich world.
A solution would be to open all trade barriers so that every continent can benefit from trade.
Pierre, reading, uk