Calais migrants to get flight home and 1,900
Hundreds of Afghan migrants will be flown home to Afghanistan from Calais on Tuesday with a 1,900 cash payment paid for by British and French taxpayers.
By Peter Allen in Paris
The Telegraph (U.K.), October 5, 2009
As well as a guaranteed place on the plane worth around 500, many of those on board will receive the sum and a guarantee of retraining back in their homeland.
However, there will be nothing to prevent any of them travelling all the way back to France the moment they get to Afghanistan.
It is intended to be the first of many flights which will cost millions of pounds, split between France and Britain.
The aim is to reduce the number of migrants who are massing in Calais, which they use as a springboard to try and get to Britain, where they will claim asylum or disappear into the black economy.
The dramatic development followed last month's clearing of 'The Jungle', a notorious Calais squatter camp which was filled with mainly young men from Afghanistan.
The French immigration minister hailed the raid as an important step in the battle to make the northern port 'watertight' to migrants, but was widely criticised after almost all those arrested were later released.
It now appears that a compromise has been reached with many of them who have agreed to accept the huge cash incentive to go home, even if only briefly. The sums involved are worth hundreds of times more in central Asia than in Britain or France.
The French pulled out of a similar deportation scheme a year ago, with First Lady Carla Bruni among those insisting that it was immoral to send Afghans back to their war-torn country.
But now such arguments appear to have been forgotten, with the first plane believed to be being supplied by a British firm taking off from London in the early hours, before stopping to pick up some 250 migrants in Paris.
They will then be flown to Kabul, accompanied by police and security guards believed to be mainly British as French unions have refused to get involved in the scheme.
Many of the deportees will be travelling under the so-called 'Global Calais Scheme', which offers the 2,000 euros in cash. The project was outlined earlier this year by Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, who as state Prefect for the Pas-de-Calais, is the most powerful politician in the region.
He said the cash would 'smooth their passage in their home country and enable each and every one of them to realise their ambitions.'
Mr De Bousquet de Florian added: 'We're trying to open their eyes to the illusion of their wish to go to Great Britain. The United Kingdom is not the Eldorado they believe it to be.
'The solution that we advocate is voluntary repatriation. These people are deluded by the people smugglers who have an interest in maintaining their illusions. The procedure of voluntary repatriation is not simply to buy an airline ticket for each person.'
French charities reacted with anger to the move, saying that the migrants' human riots would be violated.
In a joint statement, 30 refugee groups, said: 'France and Great Britain will try, like in the month of November 2008, a joint operation. Afghanistan is a country at war. It's unacceptable to send back home those who have fled the country looking for protection in Europe.'
Earlier this year, Phil Woolas, Britain's immigration minister, told MPs that the UK and France were 'assessing the feasibility' of repatriation flights as a way of reducing illegal immigration from France.