No 'new Sangatte', says Reid
By Martina Smit and agencies
Last Updated: 1:55am BST 18/04/2007
France has promised John Reid that it will not allow a new camp for British-bound illegal immigrants to develop in Calais, the Home Office said today.
The Home Secretary and his French counterpart Francois Baroin have agreed they are opposed to “any type of centre” that could “encourage the trafficking of illegal immigrants”, according to a spokesman.
The pair met in London today after charities have been given permission to provide food and washing facilities at a single site in Calais.
It prompted fears that the centre could become a second Sangatte, reviving the controversial camp that was closed in 2002 after lengthy negotiations.
Over three years, 67,000 asylum seekers used the camp as a waiting room to hide on lorries or jump aboard slow-moving freight trains before they crossed the Channel Tunnel. Reports suggest smuggling gangs are already targeting those at the new centre.
Mr Reid confirmed at the weekend that he planned to raise concerns with M Baroin, and insisted he would not allow another similar camp to emerge.
The Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister agreed that the UK and France have been more effective because they work together.
“They share the view that common efforts to reduce illegal immigration have been successful and should continue.
“Both the UK and French governments remain opposed to any type of centre in Calais that could encourage the trafficking of illegal migrants.”
But Richard Ashworth, the Conservative MEP for the South East, said: “The Home Secretary's words will put nobody's mind at ease.
“Amalgamating the existing services in the Calais area into one centre will create a focal point for people traffickers,” he said. “Calais is already becoming a dangerous place for British hauliers and many are reported to be arming themselves for overnight stopovers.
“John Reid ought to tell the French to focus their efforts on discouraging refugees from amassing on our border in the first place.”