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Britain to build Calais anti-migrant wall

September 7, 2016

UK officials have said work will begin later this month on a wall in the northern French city. France and Britain have agreed a tougher response to the migrant crisis in Calais is necessary.

Migrants attempt to board trucks at Calais
Image: Reuters/P. Rossignol

British Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill told a UK parliamentary committee that security was being tightened in Calais following several dangerous incidents involving migrants.

"We are going to start building this big new wall as part off the 17 million pound (20 million euros) package that we are doing with the French ... We've done the fence and now we're doing the wall," he added.

"People are still getting through," Goodwill said. "We have done the fences. Now we are doing the wall."

A 4-meter high (13-foot), 1-kilometer long (0.6-mile) wall will be build along the approach road to the French port city to try to prevent migrants jumping aboard trucks bound for Britain, he said.

Growing migrant numbers

The announcement came after French statistics revealed the number of migrants living around Calais has grown to around 7,000 after an influx in the summer.

The migrants, fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, stay in several temporary camps known as "jungles," which France has begun to dismantle in the city.

The migrants often create roadblocks to slow down trucks and then clamber into the trailers as stowaways on the Britain-bound trucks.

Last year, migrants scaled security fences and climbed onto the Channel Tunnel rail tracks.

Eleven migrants have died this year, seven on the highways, according to the aid group Auberge des Migrants.

The new wall will be built as part of an UK-France deal, worth 20 million euros, agreed in March.

The two countries have signed several treaties that have effectively moved the British frontier onto mainland France, where UK Border Control members staff immigration checkpoints at the Channel Tunnel and ferry terminals.

The Eurotunnel near Calais
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Charlet

Reports suggest the wall will be made of smooth concrete that will make it harder to climb, but lined with plants to minimize the visual impact.

Reuters news agency reported that shrubbery has already been cleared on one side of the Rocade road but there was no sign of workers or machinery at the site on Wednesday.

A local official told Reuters the project would be completed by the end of the year.

'Waste of money'

A British truckers' group warned the wall was a poor use of money. Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said the funds "would be much better spent on increasing security along the approach roads."

France dismantled the southern half of the "Jungle" camp in February and March, and the government said last week it would shut down the rest but gave no timeframe.

Meanwhile, France confirmed on Wednesday that its first migrant camp in Paris will open next month. Hundreds of refugees have been sleeping rough on the streets of the French capital.

mm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)