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France will never allow another 'Jungle' here, says Macron in Calais

Denis Charlet / AFP

President Emmanuel Macron vowed Tuesday that France would not allow another migrant camp like the infamous “Jungle” to spring up in the port of Calais.


“In no case will we allow another Jungle here,” he said in a speech in the northern city, as his government puts pressure on Britain to contribute more to dealing with migrants seeking to cross the Channel.

“Everything is being done to prevent illegal crossings,” Macron said, saying Calais must not be used as a “back door” to Britain.

The government of Macron’s Socialist predecessor François Hollande dismantled the Jungle – a squalid camp that at its height was home to some 10,000 people – in October 2016.

But hundreds of people continue to camp out in Calais, hoping to stow away on trucks heading to Britain, a destination seen as an El Dorado by some migrants from Afghanistan and East Africa.

Macron declared that staying in Calais instead of applying for asylum in France is "a dead end" and vowed not to allow any migrant camp to take root after authorities dismantled Europe's biggest migrant slum, on the edge of Calais, in 2016.

Macron to meet May in Sandhurst

Macron wants to change a 2003 border control agreement that allows British officials to help carry out checks in Calais, effectively moving the British border to the French port. The deal has spared Britain from receiving floods of migrants at its doorstep like other European countries, putting the burden of blocking their entry to the UK on France.

The French president is set to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday in Sandhurst near London to discuss the issue.

Macron said the three points he plans to raise with May include "better management of the issue of unaccompanied minors, reinforced police cooperation in Calais and with the countries of origin and transit" and getting British funds for development projects in Calais.

The former French tourist destination has long suffered because of the influx of migrants there.

A warning to the security services

After reports of heavy-handed policing of the migrants who remain in Calais, Macron said police had to be “exemplary” in their treatment of people who have fled war and poverty in search of a better life.

Speaking in the Gendarmerie headquarters, Macron denounced the use of tear gas and physical violence against migrants, as well as reports that migrants have had their property confiscated.

“No breaches of professional ethics will be tolerated,” he said. “If there is a breach, sanctions will be taken.”

Macron also called on pro-migrant groups to act “responsibly”, accusing some of them of encouraging people to stay in the area and attempt to reach Britain.

More than 1,130 French security forces have been posted in Calais, including riot police, border police and gendarmes. Their mission is to keep migrants out of the port and Eurotunnel and stop them from setting up camps.

Meeting Sudanese migrants

Macron also talked briefly Tuesday with Sudanese migrants at a special centre in Croisilles, south of Calais, where migrants can apply for asylum in France. Many migrants only stay briefly in such centres and quickly resume efforts to sneak across the Channel.

One migrant applying for asylum in France, identified only by his first name Ahmed, 25, said he travelled from Sudan through Libya and Italy to end up in Calais last year.

He told Macron he wants to "learn French, get training and find a job as an auto mechanic". He said he had no choice but to leave his country because his mother was killed and his family disappeared. Macron told Ahmed his story seems to meet the criteria to be granted asylum.

Just over a year ago, the filthy makeshift migrant camp in Calais was dismantled and some 7,000 migrants were sent to centres around France.

But with 400 to 700 migrants in Calais today, the situation is in many ways worse, said François Guennoc of the aid group Auberge des Migrants. The group is one of two that declined to take part in a meeting with Macron.

"It's catastrophic," he said, because migrants have no right to pitch tents.

Tensions also flare among the migrants in Calais. Up to 100 Afghans and Eritreans wielding iron bars and sticks clashed Sunday night and police had to use tear gas to separate them, officials said.

Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart has spent years pressing the French government for funds, police and other help in dealing with migrants. She is among the critics of the 2003 deal that put the British border security burden on France.

France is pressing Britain to take in more unaccompanied minors and seeking more funds from Britain to improve border controls.

May's spokesman, James Slack, declined to comment on any new deal on migrants before Macron's visit to Britain.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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