Minister wants Calais camp shut "as soon as possible"
European Union – Migration/United Kingdom – Speech by M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, on the migration situation in Calais (excerpts)
Paris, 2 September 2016
As far as the state’s action is concerned, first of all the nation owes its solidarity to the town of Calais and its inhabitants. (…) For many months, we’ve been working to find a definitive solution to the crisis. (…) Let me remind you that €50 million provided by the state will go to supporting Calais and the surrounding area until 2020. (…) The state has pledged to provide €25 million as early as before the end of 2017 (…).
Measures to support local economy
I also want to highlight the involvement of all the state services in supporting the local economy, through the creation of an emergency unit in particular. This unit has already received more than 100 applications for tax and social security liabilities to be paid in instalments, for there to be exemption from them or for them to be rescheduled, in order to relieve businesses and farms which are facing financial difficulties because of the local situation. (…)
But because of the difficulties encountered by the Calais area’s companies and its economy, we’ve decided to go further and redouble efforts. I’d like to inform you that we’re going to activate a national support and solidarity mechanism for businesses in difficulty (…).
On the security front, we’re waging a constant battle against criminal people-smuggling rings. (…)
Since 2014, we’ve continually increased police and gendarme numbers, which have doubled in Calais and the surrounding area. In 2014, nearly 950 police and gendarmes were mobilized to make the port of Calais and Calais town centre more secure. There are currently nearly 1,900 of them. (…)
To take the latest developments into account, I’ve decided to increase measures even further. (…)
A total of more than 2,000 police and gendarmes are going to be mobilized in the area around Calais.
Added to these are the 730 Operation Sentinelle soldiers made available to the préfet [high-ranking civil servant representing the state] of Nord [defence and security] zone after the Nice attack to step up border controls. (…) I want to remind you that we dismantled 28 human trafficking networks in Calais last year, i.e. twice as many as in 2014. (…) Since the beginning of the year, we’ve dismantled 29 other networks smuggling people into the UK, in cooperation with the British authorities. I’d like to remind you that since November 2015 we’ve re-established border controls. We’re carrying out robust action on this, enabling us to achieve significant results. Throughout the country, more than 60 million people have been subject to checks, since 13 November, when entering or leaving French territory. More than 54,000 individuals considered suspects have been arrested, and more than 35,000 have been turned back. Those are very significant figures, which reflect our resolute commitment, particularly in the fight against illegal immigration. (...)
So we’re not just taking action in Calais itself; we’re taking action upstream in order to impede the arrival of migrants in the Calais area and in the whole of the Nord zone.
With the same resolve, in Calais we’ve also made the transport infrastructure, port and Channel Tunnel secure, so that the border is completely impenetrable. (…) Here too, our efforts are bearing fruit. For several months, no incursions have been detected inside the tunnel, and the British authorities tell us that they’re no longer seeing any illegal crossings. (...) To give you a rough idea, since January 2016, we’ve seen only 315 breaches of the tunnel site, whereas in October 2015 we counted more than 10,000. (…) So the message we’re sending to the migrants and people-smugglers is crystal clear: you can’t get through any more and you won’t at Calais or, for that matter, Dunkirk. (…)
So let me say this, and I don’t say it lightly: the battle against illegal immigration, far from losing ground, is being constantly ramped up. I might add, on this subject, that against this background we’re going to step up even further our action targeting migrants who aren’t entitled to apply for asylum in France, because they were registered in a country other than ours. We must escort them back to those countries, as provided under the Dublin III European regulation. This is why a second Eurodac terminal will be installed in Calais. (…)
Calais isn’t a stage or a final destination. It’s a blind alley for migrants who are trying to get to the United Kingdom. (…)
Dismantling of camp
The campement de la lande [makeshift camp] is destined to be completely dismantled. But to achieve this objective, there needs to be method, determination, dialogue and a sense of responsibility.
It’s by persevering and being methodical that we’ll come up with an effective solution, doing so until the camp is definitively shut down – which I would like to happen as soon as possible.
As you know, we began by entirely dismantling the southern area of the camp. Only a few “living areas” remain, in accordance with the Administrative Court’s decision of 25 February 2016. That’s only a first stage. The second will obviously involve the northern area. To embark on this new phase, I called for us to end the rapid increase in illegal shops, seen in recent months. We therefore carried out, in the northern area, a very important joint operation comprising judicial and administrative checks at the end of July. These checks made it possible to close down 70 shops, arrest 19 people and seize more than 30 cubic metres of goods sold illegally or presenting high health risks. (…)
We’re advancing methodically, maintaining our course: the gradual, controlled dismantling of the makeshift camp.
Measures to support migrants
Of course, before being in a position to begin dismantling, it was essential for us to be able to accommodate the migrants under humane, dignified conditions. (…) The solution we chose to implement – and which I’m convinced is the most effective there is – consists in encouraging and supporting the migrants in their process of applying for asylum in France.
I recall that in 2015 and 2016, we invested more than €46 million in Calais in order to create and improve conditions for taking in migrants and asylum seekers. So a day centre, the Centre Jules Ferry, was opened, distributing 3,600 meals every day and offering the migrants settled in the camp access to around 600 showers. (…)
400 places reserved for vulnerable people were made available in the Centre Jules Ferry. Minors – particularly isolated minors – living in the camp are given special care. (…) Two centres are devoted to them: the Centre de Saint-Omer for those over the age of 15 and the Centre Georges Brassens for those under 15. (…) Two teachers sent by the National Education [Ministry] are now there to ensure the children in the camp receive schooling. I might add that, during the Franco-British summit in Amiens, in March 2016, France got the United Kingdom to commit to taking in isolated minors present in Calais who have family in the UK, as part of the implementation of the Dublin regulation. The British government pledged to shoulder its responsibilities and I note that it has begun to do so.
Applications for family reunification are dealt with by the sub-Prefecture of Calais the same day they are lodged, and transmitted directly to the London authorities. This close cooperation has already enabled 63 minors to be legally reunited with members of their family in the UK. But this isn’t enough, it must be speeded up. (…) Finally, to increase the opportunities offered to Calais migrants, 161 reception and guidance centres (CAO), with a human face, have gradually been opened throughout the country, because taking in migrants must be a matter of national solidarity and can’t be something one region, town or department has to shoulder alone. (…)
Since 27 October 2015, 5,528 people have been taken care of this way. Eighty percent of them applied for asylum in France. We’re going to step up this effort further, with the creation by the end of the year of 2,000 new accommodation places in CAOs and 6,000 places in asylum seeker reception centres (CADA). We’re also aiming to create 5,000 new emergency accommodation places for asylum seekers in 2017. That’s what we’re doing. Let me add that 18,500 places in CADAs will have been created over the five-year period, whereas so little had been done in the past… (…) If we add together what we’ve spent on opening CAOs and CADAs, and running them smoothly, providing facilities for the camp, deporting and detaining, as well as the extra cost linked to mobile forces’ operations, we spent €100 million a year in 2015 and 2016 – so a total of €200 million – to finding a lasting solution here to the migration crisis. Who can still say that we’re not doing anything in Calais and the surrounding area?
I of course want to highlight the fact that all these efforts benefit from the UK’s active support and normal commitment. Given the crisis we face, London is a partner with whom we must find effective solutions. At Place Beauvau [French Interior Ministry] on Tuesday I met the new British Home Secretary, Mrs Amber Rudd, and we’re going to continue deepening and strengthening the cooperation between our two countries on fighting illegal immigration and increasing the security of our shared border. The UK has pledged to continue its efforts as regards investment in security infrastructure in Calais. Let me remind you that since 2014 the British authorities have already contributed €100 million to work on making the port and tunnel more secure, and to asylum infrastructure and looking after migrants. Let me also remind you that, over the past few months, we’ve considerably increased our police and judicial cooperation with our neighbours across the Channel to combat illegal immigration networks.
So we’re going to go on working in concert, towards ever closer cooperation.
Le Touquet agreement
In this respect, I want to say a word about the famous Le Touquet agreement, signed by the French and British governments in 2003. (…) First of all, the UK’s exit from the European Union doesn’t mean there will be any change to the border between our two countries, which was and remains an external border of the Schengen Area. This is quite simply a matter of geography and international law. As I said, the border at Calais is closed and will remain so. There’s absolutely no reason to re-open it – quite the opposite. I clearly detected that the very people who signed the Le Touquet agreement in the past would now like us to denounce it, out of sheer populism, without the impact of such a decision ever being discussed. (…) In actual fact, calling the Le Touquet agreement into question, if it were to lead us to stop controlling the flows of migrants who want to go to Britain, would have immediate and particularly serious consequences for the region.
The intensification of human trafficking by people-smuggling networks would provoke an influx of migrants into Calais. The camp would then probably have to accommodate 25,000 people, with the humanitarian consequences imaginable. Moreover, the number of attempted crossings would increase, including by sea. We would then have to deal in the Channel with a miniature version of what’s happening in the Mediterranean: many attempts to cross from one bank to another by sea – or through the tunnel –, with the consequences we know about: people injured or killed. Is that really what we want for Calais and the surrounding area? Moreover, everyone must be fully aware that the Le Touquet treaty provides for two years’ notice being given in the event of it being called into question by one of the signatories. In other words, if we were to denounce it, there would begin a genuine period of uncertainty, during which the agreements would of course continue to be applied, the border remaining closed on the French side, but with the considerable risk of a “suction effect”, provoking a massive, extra influx of migrants into Calais. Without a shadow of a doubt, we would be exposing ourselves to an extraordinarily difficult situation, likely to lead to the formation of a veritable “Lampedusa of the North”. Once again, I ask the question: is that really what we want for the town of Calais and the surrounding area?
The migration crisis and the consequences it entails in Calais and the surrounding area are too serious an issue to be used for the purposes of sterile, counter-productive political arguments. On the contrary, we need unity and dialogue, with plain speaking but not immoderate language.
The government is opting for clear-sightedness and a sense of responsibility, and will continue to do everything necessary so that we emerge from this crisis collectively and definitively, without abandoning any of our values, those which make the Republic great./.