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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Police reinforcements sent to Calais after 22 hurt in migrant clashes

Five people were hurt by gunfire in the most serious violence among migrants in and around the French port city.

Migrants clash as fighting broke out in Calais (Nord Littoral via AP)
Migrants clash as fighting broke out in Calais (Nord Littoral via AP)

By Michel Spingler, Associated Press

Police reinforcements have arrived in the French port city of Calais after clashes among migrants left 22 people injured, with the government warning of more potential violence among those seeking to cross into the UK.

Interior minister Gerard Collomb said five of the victims were injured by gunfire in Thursday’s fighting. Speaking in Calais, he blamed migrant traffickers and “totally organised” gangs for the violence.

Police are seeking a shooting suspect but have made no arrests, he said.

Reinforcements are being brought in following gunfire (AP)

Firearms are rare among migrants, and the shootings represent the most serious clash in recent times among migrants around Calais.

Two extra police units are arriving on Friday, Mr Collomb said. He added that while in the past such violence was spontaneous, it appears to be growing more organised. He said local authorities have dismantled six migrant trafficking networks already this year, compared to 20 in all of 2017.

The prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais region said the gunfire was the culmination of a showdown between Afghan and Eritrean migrants, fighting each
other with sticks and stones, after a meal distribution near the Calais hospital.

In a second confrontation, up to 200 Eritrean migrants cornered 30 Afghans near the former site of a makeshift migrant camp that housed thousands of people before it was evacuated and destroyed in 2016.

Migrants take a coffee and food provided by activists in Calais (AP)

Mr Collomb said the government will start meal distribution to migrants outside Calais in the coming two weeks, instead of leaving it to aid groups, in an effort to stop feeding spots from becoming fixed nodes of tension.

Insisting that “very few” people successfully sneak across to Britain, Mr Collomb said: “If you want to go to Britain, you shouldn’t go to Calais.”

Mr Collomb also called for long-term solutions to speed up asylum decisions and deport economic migrants with no right to refugee status.

Tensions have been high in Calais since the camp was destroyed. More than 1,130 French security forces have been posted in Calais to keep migrants out of the port and Eurotunnel and to stop them from setting up camps.

Press Association

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