Migrants would be held to await deportation from France on chartered aircraft
paid for by the British and French governments. The move follows calls from
the French authorities for Britain to take an active role in curbing the
flow of migrants arriving in Calais.
With about five hundred migrants in Calais — and about ten reaching Britain
hidden on lorries every night — Eric Besson, the French Immigration
Minister, is under pressure from residents whose anger has been fuelled by
incidents such as the fight that broke out between dozens of migrants in the
centre of Calais yesterday.
Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, disclosed proposals to tackle the surge
of migrants, many from Afghanistan and Iraq, at Channel ports hoping for a
new life in Britain. He took Home Office officials by surprise with his
disclosure of the initiative, which he said ministers hoped could be
announced officially at the annual Anglo-French summit in May.
After giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday,
Mr Woolas said that he wanted to send a message to people-traffickers. “We
want to increase the profile of deportations because we have to get the
message back to Afghanistan and Iraq that Britain is not the Promised Land,”
Mr Woolas said. “We are in a 24-hour-a-day war with the traffickers.” Plans
for a detention centre come seven years after France shut the Sangatte
centre near Calais run by the Red Cross. Sangatte was acting as a magnet for
people from all over the world trying to enter Britain illegally.
Mr Woolas insisted that the proposed detention centre would not be like
Sangatte and would be run jointly by France and Britain. Details of the size
of the detention centre, costs and whether it would be developed by the
private or public sector were still being negotiated, Mr Woolas said.
Once a deal was reached with the French Government he hoped that the centre,
to be sited near the border controls at Calais, would be built “pretty
quickly”. Mr Woolas claimed that the reason why migrants were again
gathering in their hundreds in northern French ports was that tougher
British border controls were stopping them from getting into Britain. “They
are not queueing to get into the UK. They are locked out. The profile is
increasing because we have toughened the border controls,” he said. As part
of the deal, the British and French governments would charter flights to
return the migrants to Kabul and to northern Iraq, he added.
Damian Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, said: “The real problem is the
increasing numbers who are gathering at the coast with no intention of
coming here legally. They will only be deterred by proper protection of our
borders, which is why Conservatives propose to set up a specialist border
Mr Woolas said that he expected the new points-based system for immigrants to
lead to a fall in the number of workers entering Britain.
Professor David Metcalf, the chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee,
gave MPs the clearest indication that its next report would no longer say
that there was a shortage of quantity surveyors and construction managers in