Thursday 17 October 2019

Senior UN official accuses the UK of 'grossly exaggerating' migrant crisis in Calais

Migrants face a police cordon by the perimeter fence of the Eurotunnel in Calais Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Migrants face a police cordon by the perimeter fence of the Eurotunnel in Calais Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

David Kearns

The UK has been accused of exaggerating the scale of the migrant crisis in Calais by the UN’s special representative on migration.

Peter Sutherland said he was “amazed” by the UK’s reaction to the ongoing migrant crisis, and accused Prime Minister David Cameron of using it to “inflame tensions” over free movement within Europe.

“It is a xenophobic response to the issue of free movement,” he said, adding that the crisis was a humanitarian one rather than economic.

The senior United Nations official attacked the UK’s response to the growing number of migrants coming to the French port, saying that British reaction to the crisis was “grossly excessive”.

Read More: 'He should remember he's talking about people, not insects' - Cameron slammed for migrant comments

His comments come after David Cameron revealed that Ministry of Defence (MoD) officers could be deployed to the Kent coastline after Channel services were disrupted by thousands of migrants storming the tunnel earlier in the week.

Extra sniffer dogs and fencing will also be sent to Calais to help deal with the migrant crisis, the Prime Minister announced.

David Cameron
David Cameron

Mr Cameron said the situation was "not acceptable" following a fourth night of disruption at the Calais Eurotunnel terminal.

"This is going to be a difficult issue right across the summer," Mr Cameron warned.

"We rule nothing out in dealing with this very serious problem."

Read More: Military join efforts to ease congestion as Calais migrant crisis shows no sign of abating

Mr Cameron came under fire on Wednesday for referring to migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean as a “swarm.”

“Anybody who thinks that by erecting borders or fences in some way a particular state can be protected from alleged ‘floods’ – which are anything but floods – of migrants is living in cloud cuckoo land,” Mr Sutherland said. 

“The first thing we have to do collectively is to deal with their conditions, instead of talking about sending Gurkhas or building fences.

“The great majority of migrants heading to Europe are genuine refugees fleeing violence and persecution… and Britain receives far fewer applications for sanctuary than other European countries.”

Read More: Migrants continue to storm Eurotunnel despite heightened security blitz

He told the BBC: "In my opinion, the debate in the UK is grossly excessive in terms of Calais.

“We are talking here about a number of people – a relatively small number in the context of what other countries are having to do – who are in terrible conditions and have to be dealt with by France and/or Britain.

"I think it is most unfortunate to create an image of hordes of people, when in reality the highest figure I have seen for the actual numbers in the so-called 'jungle' around Calais – the place where these unfortunate people are living – is 10,000."

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