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France wants British police in Calais

Philippe Huguen, AFP | Police officers attempt to stop illegal migrants from jumping onto trucks headed for Britain in the French port of Calais on October 29
2 min

France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Wednesday welcomed the idea of Britain sending police to help patrol the port city of Calais, where thousands of migrants have gathered in the hopes of reaching the UK.

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French authorities have been overwhelmed in recent weeks by the estimated 2,300 migrants who have arrived in Calais and its surrounding areas, with the issue becoming a point of contention between France and Britain.

Cazeneuve’s comments were made in an interview with BBC radio, during which he was asked if he thought British police should be sent to Calais for assistance.

"It would be very useful to have more policemen here... in order to explain to all the immigrants in Calais that it's impossible to cross the Channel," he said. "We'd be very happy if it would be possible to have more cooperation concerning this point."

Cazeneuve also spoke frankly of the "hard negotiation" between the two countries over the issue, and of the many meetings with British Home Secretary Theresa May.

James Brokenshire, a conservative British MP, quickly ruled out the idea of Britain sending police to Calais, telling BBC radio that it was “a matter for the French”.

Calais ‘taken hostage’ by migrants

In a sign of rising tension over the issue, Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart appeared before a British parliamentary committee last week, saying that the border should be moved on to British territory "because it's up to you to decide the migrants you want to let in or not".

She added that her city was being "taken hostage" by migrants hoping to reach Britain, suggesting that the country’s generous benefits system was in part to blame for the influx.

While Britain has for the most part dismissed criticism of its handling of the situation, the government has pledged £12 million (15 million euros, $19 million) over three years to help tackle the problem.

Calais has been home to groups of illegal migrants since authorities closed down the controversial Sangatte immigrant detention centre in 2002.

There has been a sharp rise in recent months, however, as an increasing number of people arrive from restive countries including Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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