Anglo-French detention centre to thwart would-be illegal immigrants

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Migrants queue for free food near the centre of Calais                                                 Above: Migrants queue for free food near the centre of Calais

A joint Anglo-French detention centre is being planned for Calais to hold hundreds of migrants gathering near the Channel port to try to enter Britain illegally.

Migrants would be held to await deportation from France on chartered aircraft paid for by the British and French governments. The move follows calls from the French authorities for Britain to take an active role in curbing the flow of migrants arriving in Calais.

With about five hundred migrants in Calais — and about ten reaching Britain hidden on lorries every night — Eric Besson, the French Immigration Minister, is under pressure from residents whose anger has been fuelled by incidents such as the fight that broke out between dozens of migrants in the centre of Calais yesterday.

Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, disclosed proposals to tackle the surge of migrants, many from Afghanistan and Iraq, at Channel ports hoping for a new life in Britain. He took Home Office officials by surprise with his disclosure of the initiative, which he said ministers hoped could be announced officially at the annual Anglo-French summit in May.

After giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday, Mr Woolas said that he wanted to send a message to people-traffickers. “We want to increase the profile of deportations because we have to get the message back to Afghanistan and Iraq that Britain is not the Promised Land,” Mr Woolas said. “We are in a 24-hour-a-day war with the traffickers.” Plans for a detention centre come seven years after France shut the Sangatte centre near Calais run by the Red Cross. Sangatte was acting as a magnet for people from all over the world trying to enter Britain illegally. 

Mr Woolas insisted that the proposed detention centre would not be like Sangatte and would be run jointly by France and Britain. Details of the size of the detention centre, costs and whether it would be developed by the private or public sector were still being negotiated, Mr Woolas said. 

Once a deal was reached with the French Government he hoped that the centre, to be sited near the border controls at Calais, would be built “pretty quickly”. Mr Woolas claimed that the reason why migrants were again gathering in their hundreds in northern French ports was that tougher British border controls were stopping them from getting into Britain. “They are not queueing to get into the UK. They are locked out. The profile is increasing because we have toughened the border controls,” he said. As part of the deal, the British and French governments would charter flights to return the migrants to Kabul and to northern Iraq, he added. 

Damian Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, said: “The real problem is the increasing numbers who are gathering at the coast with no intention of coming here legally. They will only be deterred by proper protection of our borders, which is why Conservatives propose to set up a specialist border police force.” 

Mr Woolas said that he expected the new points-based system for immigrants to lead to a fall in the number of workers entering Britain.  continues here

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