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UK and France boost policing in Calais

August 20, 2015

France and Britain have launched a shared "command and control" center at the port of Calais. They say the new force will combat gangs trying to smuggle undocumented migrants and refugees across the English Channel.

Frankreich Calais Flüchtlinge Grenze
Image: Reuters/J. Medina

The United Kingdom's Home Office issued a statement Thursday announcing the initiative, which will involve police resources from both Britain and France.

The new combined command center in Calais had a mission to "find and disrupt organized criminals who attempt to smuggle migrants illegally into northern France and across the Channel by ensuring intelligence and enforcement work is more joined up and collaborative," the statement read.

The unit will be led by one British and one French senior commander and report to the interior ministers of both countries.

An estimated 3,000 people are camping out in Calais in slum-like conditions as they attempt to get into the UK by increasingly desperate means. Last month saw thousands of attempts on several days by migrants to break into the Eurotunnel undersea rail link, causing tunnel closures and traffic backlogs which stretched well into England.

British Home Secretaray Theresa May is due to visit Calais on Thursday, the first British government minister to visit the French port since the escalation of the migrant crisis. She is due to further outline the plans alongside her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve.

Regional crisis

Europe as a whole is being faced with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people seeking asylum, many of whom have fled conflict or poverty in the Middle East, Africa or the Balkans. Human traffickers have profited by packing unseaworthy ships full of paying migrants and sending them across the Mediterranean.

Germany's government on Wednesday said it expected to receive a record 800,000 applications for asylum this year, quadrupling the number it received in 2014.

Keith Vaz, who chairs a parliamentary body which monitors the work of May's ministry, was quoted by news agency AFP as welcoming the measures but warning that simply closing off one route would only move the problem elsewhere.

"We need agreeements with countries across the north coast to stop this situation developing before we see Calais-like crises spring up at ports around the continent," he said.

se/rc (AFP, Reuters)