There will be no second Sangatte refugee camp, says new mayor of Calais
By IAN SPARKS
Last updated at 00:14am on 21st March 2008
The new hardline mayor of Calais has scrapped plans for a refugee camp dubbed “Sangatte Two”.
It had been feared that the hostel would encourage more asylum seekers to come to the town and attempt to cross the Channel.
The first Sangatte, a Red Cross hostel, was used as a springboard for tens of thousands of migrants to sneak into Britain.
The election earlier this week of Right-winger Natacha Bouchart a protegee of President Nicolas Sarkozy ended 37 years of Communist control of the French town.
The previous mayor, Jacky Henin, had angered Mr Sarkozy by pushing ahead with the plan for the refugee centre.
Within hours of Miss Bouchart taking office, a spokesman for the 44-year-old said: “She has absolutely no intention of defying the government. There will be no new Sangatte.”
He added: “One of the reasons the Communists lost Calais was because people were sick of their plans to make the town a more attractive destination for migrants.
“Security is now being stepped up in the port and everything is being done to discourage people from using Calais as a route into Britain.”
Mr Henin had planned to override opposition from the central Government to build a series of bungalows containing showers, canteens, and medical facilities for the hundreds of refugees currently sleeping rough in Calais.
Unlike the original Sangatte, the new camp would not have offered accommodation. However, the centre which would have been run by local charities could have acted as stepping stone to Britain.
A spokesman for Mr Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, which had strongly opposed the plans, said: “The French government is absolutely delighted with this development.”
The president oversaw the closure of the first Sangatte centre when he was interior minister in 2002.
He had struck a deal with his British counterpart at the time, David Blunkett.
Miss Bouchart said yesterday: “The issue of illegal immigrants is a major headache for Calais. I propose setting up a steering committee made up of police and elected councillors to resolve the problem as soon as possible.
“The problem must be dealt with for the good of the people of Calais and the welfare of the immigrants themselves.”
Local journalist Daniel Hecq said Miss Bouchart's tough line on the immigrants was a key factor in her election victory. She took 54 per cent of the vote.
He said: “The people of Calais were simply fed up with their town being over-run by refugees. They saw the Communists as either unwilling or unable to do anything about the problem and clearly wanted to elect a mayor with the determination to tackle the issue.”
The opening of a new centre for asylum seekers was also opposed by many businessmen.
The president of the Calais Chamber of Commerce, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, said: “The town has a duty to those trying to ensure the security of the town.
“Building a refugee centre would not have helped them at all and we welcome the election of Miss Bouchart.”
But local refugee charity C'Sur, which has provided free food and clothing to illegal immigrants in the town for eight years, said the centre was sorely needed.
A spokesman said: “We have no political agenda, but there is a humanitarian crisis on the streets of Calais. A refuge for the migrants would have alleviated a lot of suffering, and we intend to continue to press the new Rightwing council to get it built.”