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Calais crisis 'top priority' for UK, France

August 2, 2015

UK and French ministers have published a joint statement committing to solving the migrant crisis in Calais together. They warned there was "no easy way into the UK."

Refugees in Calais
Image: Reuters/P. Rossignol

The statement from French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and his British counterpart, Theresa May, appeared in France's "Journal Du Dimanche" and in Britain's "Telegraph" newspaper.

"Tackling this situation is the top priority for the UK and French governments. We are committed and determined to solve this, and to solve it together," the ministers said.

The British government has committed 10 million euros ($11 million) to improve fencing and security around the Eurotunnel rail terminal. An additional 120 French police were sent to Calais this week.

Thousands of migrants have made their way to Calais after arriving in Europe from Syria, Libya, Eritrea and other African and Middle East countries in the hope of getting into Britain.

The new security measures at the Channel Tunnel sent "a clear message," according to May and Cazeneuve. "Our border is secure, and there is no easy way into the UK."

"Our streets are not paved with gold," the two ministers said.

Risky attempts

In the last week hundreds of migrants have tried to break into the Eurotunnel rail terminal in Coquelles, outside Calais. The statement said the risky attempts by desperate migrants had resulted in "serious injuries and, tragically, deaths."

"Many of those in Calais and attempting to cross the Channel have made their way there through Italy, Greece or other countries," the ministers wrote. They called for a European and international response to what they called "a global migration crisis."

The ministers said the migrant situation had to be addressed at its roots by "reducing the number of migrants who are crossing into Europe from Africa" for economic reasons.

Both France and the UK were refusing about 200 migrants each month who did not qualify for asylum, the statement added.

French opposition

Opposition lawmaker Xavier Bertrand has accused the British government of underestimating the problem in Calais.

In an interview with the "Journal Du Dimanche," Bertrand suggested migrants should not be stopped going to England unless stronger measures were enforced.

"If he continues not to propose anything else, let's let the migrants leave and let Mr. Cameron handle his politics in his own way, but on his own island," Bertrand said.

jm/gsw (AFP, EFE)