Paris, London sign agreement on Calais migrants' crisis

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Command and Control center to be set up at the Eurotunnel terminal to deter smuggling gangs

 PARIS – France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May signed a cooperation agreement Thursday for reinforced security measures around the Channel Tunnel.

The agreement calls for the establishment of a new “command and control center” to be set up at the Eurotunnel terminal to deter smuggling gangs in Calais, as Europe grapples with its biggest migration crisis since World War II — more than 100,000 migrants have arrived at European borders every month for the past three months, according to the EU border agency, Frontex.  

Speaking at the tunnel terminal, Cazeneuve said that British teams will be deployed to break up smuggling gangs and to control nightly attempts by desperate migrants and refugees to board trucks that are to take the tunnel.

The agreement also calls for increased French police forces to be deployed at the Calais terminal, and for additional searches of trucks on the trains that traverse the Channel Tunnel. There will be more fencing around the terminal, more security cameras and flood lighting and infrared detection technology will be installed.

It also provides €10 million ($11.2 million) over two years to speed up asylum applications and to provide humanitarian aid for migrants. 

Cazeneuve stressed the “determination of both governments (French and British) to break up the networks of illegal immigration”.

“Smugglers must know that they will be identified, caught and punished by justice, and we are determined to ensure that this nefarious traffic, which leads to human tragedies and deaths will finally stop,” he told reporters.

The Home Office said Thursday that British police officers will be deployed to Calais “to combat gangs smuggling migrants and refugees across the Channel”.

Both French and British officers will work in the command and control center. One British and one French senior commander will share management of the center, to be built near the Eurotunnel entrance.

The two ministers also met with associations and local elected officials while visiting Calais.

According to French police, the number of migrants camped at the port has grown to a total of 3,500, of which 1,500 have actually tried to board freight trains to the U.K. through the end of July.

Cazeneuve is also due to meet his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere in Berlin for talks on Europe’s migration policies.

Since June, a total of 16 migrants have lost their lives in such attempts, according to the French medical organization Medecins du Monde, which has opened a mobile clinic at the site.

According to the Statistical Office of the European Union (EuroStat), 31,475 migrants have demanded asylum in the U.K. in 2014. This is about half the number who made the same demand in France, but, in the U.K., 39 percent of requests were agreed as opposed to 22 percent in France. 

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) has recently called on France to come up with an urgent plan for migrants in Calais.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said that the situation in Calais was not unmanageable, adding that the tragic problem needed a serious and sustainable solution.

The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, demanded Wednesday compensation of €50 million ($55.8 million) from France and Britain for the damages the city suffered due to the migrant crisis.

“If the British can put € 25 million into security at the port and the tunnel, it should be possible for each country to put €25 million into the economic part of the area as well,” Bouchart said. 

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks has called on Member States of the Council of Europe to “stand by their obligations to protect the basic social rights of everyone under their jurisdiction” including those of “irregular migrants”.

“Those who think that irregular migrants have no rights because they have no papers are wrong. Everyone is a holder of human rights regardless of their status,” wrote Muiznieks on the blog of Council of Europe on Thursday. 

Muiznieks urged EU countries to “consider policies, including regularization programs and increased legal channels for those who immigrate for work, so as to avoid or resolve situations whereby migrants are in, or are at risk of falling into, an irregular situation and to train police officers, labor and immigration officials and basic service providers on the human rights of irregular migrants and victims of trafficking in human beings and exploitative work.”

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