France 'to open another Sangatte
A new welcome centre for UK bound illegal migrants is to open in Calais before the end of this year, it has emerged.
By Peter Allen in Paris
Published: 6:00AM GMT 08 Dec 2009
Closely guarded plans have been approved by French administrative judges for a new structure close to the towns ferry port.
It is already being dubbed Sangatte II after the former Red Cross centre which attracted thousands of illegal foreigners before it was razed to the ground in 2002.
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister said: This is another gesture of contempt from France to Britain. The only result of this will be to encourage more potential illegal immigrants to try to break our laws.
The most humane reaction would be for the French authorities to deal with the asylum applications themselves.
News of the latest building comes just seven months after Frances immigration minister, Eric Besson, said he would make the town watertight to those trying to get to Britain.
But officials say the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that both the French government and Calais council feel they have no option to build the new centre on waste ground next to the Marcel-Doret industrial estate.
French officials insisted that it would only be a day centre for foreigners who are in a particularly bad way including the sick, pregnant women and minors under the age of 18.
But the plans agreed by the Administrative Court of Lille include central heating, hot showers, and a kitchen.
The facilities will be made available to those trying to board ferries and trains to England. Officials defended the plan as a humanitarian response.
One said: There are more than 1000 migrants sleeping rough in the town, and with temperatures dropping their living conditions are getting worse.
He said that Septembers destruction of The Jungle, an illegal shanty town full of mainly Afghan young men, had not had the desired effect.
It did not persuade them to leave, so we have to offer them a basic level of support, the official added.
Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozys ruling UMP Party, said the council had been forced to accept the new building as part of a compromise deal with refugee charity Secours Catholique (Catholic Help).
The charity, which will run the new centre, had wanted to build an even bigger one in another part of town, but agreed to remove their planning application in return for the smaller structure.
Mrs Bouchard, who blames Britains lax asylum policies for the influx of migrants, confirmed that the new structure would be open by the end of the year.
She said that negotiations had been incredibly tense and that the government in Paris would be contributing financially to the centre.
Since the closure of the notorious Jungle in Calais in September this year, further migrant camps have sprung up in nearby Steenvoorde, Bailleul and St Omer, with all providing beds, food, clothing shops, medical care and advice on how to claim asylum.
But the Calais centre is likely to cause particular outrage, as Mr Besson has insisted time and time again that there would no official welcome centre in the town.
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