French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Sunday vowed to maintain “order” in northern Calais, a day after dozens of migrants boarded a ferry triggering the temporary closure of the key port.
“The government is completely determined to ensure public order is maintained in Calais,” Cazeneuve said.
A day earlier, some 30 to 40 migrants briefly boarded the moored “Spirit of Britain” ferry in the French port in an attempt to reach Britain.
“Spirit of Britain” is a cross-channel ferry operated by P&O Ferries.
Deputy Calais prefect Denis Gaudin said that some of the refugees had decided to quit the boat voluntarily before police removed the rest.
The prefecture said 24 migrants and 11 members of a pro-migrant movement called the No Borders Network were taken to a police station. Cross-Channel ferry traffic resumed at around 8.30 pm (1930 GMT).
Four migrants and two protesters will face a court on Monday over the incident.
The boarding – a rare occurrence in the heavily-guarded port – came after around 2,000 people, including both migrants and sympathisers, protested nearby over living conditions in the notoriously squalid camp known as “the Jungle”.
The camp is home to an estimated 4,000 migrants, most of them from North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan, mostly sleeping in tents and makeshift shelters without ready access to plumbing, running water and other basic amenities.
Among the protesters were people from Britain, France, Belgium and Italy.
“We are here in solidarity and to denounce the inaction of the French state, which does not have the will to ensure a better life for the refugees,” said Rino, a 22-year-old student from Italy who had come to Calais by bus.
“Refugees welcome”, “Calais, Lesbos, Lampedusa, our borders kill”, “Open the borders, let them in,” read the protesters’ banners.
‘Failure of government’
Though it was brief, the boarding of the ferry and the temporary closure of the port heightened tensions in Calais.
Another protest was held in the town Sunday, this time with local shop owners and business people demonstrating in a bid to call attention to the impact the migrant crisis is having on the local economy.
“My port is nice, my city is beautiful – support our city, our port, our businesses and our jobs,” read the banner held up by the leaders of the around 2,000-strong march.
Among them was Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart, who said the previous day’s incident on the ferry was down to a lack of suitable controls by the French government.
"What happened yesterday (Saturday) is a failure of the government," she said.
Jean-Marc Puissesseau, director of Calais port, said the migrant crisis was affecting passenger numbers, which he said were down by around 40,000 compared to a year ago.
He called for "the Jungle" to be relocated.
"The proximity of the camp and the unprecedented number of migrants make it impossible to secure the (port) infrastructure, however much the state invests," he told AFP.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2016-01-25