Britain to reinforce border with France after 'unacceptable scenes' involving migrants - David Cameron
Published 24/06/2015 | 12:45
BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron said today his government was considering reinforcing Britain's border with France around the port of Calais after what he said were unacceptable scenes of chaos involving migrants trying to reach his country.
Television footage yesterday showed large crowds of migrants trying to board queuing lorries after traffic was halted through the Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France due to disruption by striking French ferry workers.
"We have been looking at whether we can put more personnel and indeed sniffer dog teams on that side of the channel to make a difference," Cameron told parliament.
"There is also more work being done in terms of installing fencing not just around the port at Calais but also around the Eurostar and Eurotunnel entrance," he said.
The mayor of Calais has criticised the British government for not doing enough to fund security in the port, saying Britain needs to overhaul its generous welfare system and improve identity controls she says make it a magnet for illegal immigrants.
Cameron said Britain had already invested £12m on bolstering the border and was happy to do more if needed. There was no point in either country "trying to point the finger of blame at each other", he said, saying it was more important to maintain a strong partnership.
British and French authorities have stopped "significant numbers" of migrants from entering the UK by climbing aboard lorries in Calais in the last two days, Theresa May said.
The Home Secretary said the UK Border Force put in place "tried and tested" contingency plans to deal with chaotic scenes at the French port that led to the Channel Tunnel being closed.
Services through the tunnel were returning to normal today after the day of disruption caused by striking French ferry workers, which Mrs May described as "deeply regrettable".
Answering an urgent question in the Commons, Mrs May said: "The French and UK governments were well prepared for this event.
"Tried and tested contingency plans were quickly put into place.
"Despite the extra pressure caused by the French strikers, Border Force maintained border security by following plans to put additional staff in place to search freight vehicles passing through the affected ports during the industrial action and thereafter.
"All freight vehicles passing through the Calais ports undergo searching by both the French authorities and the UK's Border Force before boarding a ferry or train.
"During the course of yesterday's disruption and since, Border Force and the French authorities have successfully identified and intercepted a significant number of would-be migrants."
Mrs May said that although traffic is beginning to move normally again, Britain and France would maintain a "significant" border security operation, as she denounced the inconvenience caused to lorry drivers and the public by the striking workers.
She said: "Traffic on both sides of the Channel is moving again.
"There will however continue to be a significant border security operation as the backlogs of traffic are cleared at the affected ports.
"The inconvenience caused by the French strikers to the travelling public and lorry drivers is deeply regrettable.
"Though yesterday's incident was caused by events that were beyond the control of Her Majesty's Government, our law enforcement organisations reacted to events extremely well."
Mrs May also highlighted co-operation with France on tackling the criminal gangs that help migrants make their journey into and across Europe, saying 223 people have been prosecuted for people smuggling on both sides of the Channel.
The Home Secretary said: "More broadly the ongoing situation in Calais serves as an important reminder of why EU member states need to work together to tackle the causes of illegal immigration in source and transit countries.
"We are already co-operating closely with the French to tackle the organised criminal gangs that facilitate the movement of migrants into and across Europe.
"UK and French law enforcement organisations have already had considerable success in dismantling criminal networks behind the people trafficking and smuggling on both sides of the Channel, resulting in the prosecution of 223 individuals."
Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said the Calais crisis was the result of conflict, instability and poverty in other nations and has been a problem since at least last year.
The Labour frontbencher said: "The situation in Calais as you rightly say has been caused by a wider humanitarian issue across the whole of the Mediterranean and North Africa, and is caused by hunger, civil war, political instability and by movement of peoples across the Mediterranean.
"But the situation in Calais clearly last night alongside the strike has continued to cause problems which have been present for some time now, including a visit I made in November of last year, and remains a real challenge."