Violence is expected in Calais as migrants attempt to sneak across the border to the UK
A surge in numbers near the key border post has already seen police use tear gas to stop a baying mob. And now just six months after the notorious “Jungle” shantytown was flattened, the president of the region is demanding the French government takes urgent action to prevent the crisis escalating.
In a letter seen by the Daily Express, Xavier Bertrand told new Prime Minister Edouard Philippe the time had come to arrest and return those trying to reach the UK illegally.
His desperate plea comes after successive summers in which British truckers and tourists have been caught up in clashes near the port.
Mr Bertrand said: “The situation has become worrisome again. I am regularly alerted by road hauliers who are seeing an upsurge of degradation on their trucks.
“Every day residents, elected officials and business leaders express their concerns about the return of migrants to Calais.
“The risk is very real… the security forces are not able to prevent migrants present near Calais to prepare their attempts to intrude in the port or tunnel in order to reach the UK.”
The situation has become worrisome again
The Calais migrant problem comes just over a week before the General Election and as the debate continues over how Britain can properly control its borders.
Net migration – the difference between those entering and leaving the UK – now stands at 248,000. Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to bring down the migration to “the tens of thousands”.
Migrant crisis: Key locations before and after Tue, April 4, 2017
In these composite images, a comparison has been made between a scene at a key location during the height of the 2015 migrant crisis last year and the view there now
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Aid workers help migrants up the shore after making the crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos on November 16, 2015 in Sikaminias, Greece
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claims he would deliver a “fair” immigration policy but has refused say whether that would mean a reduction in numbers coming into the UK.
Mr Bertrand’s appeal is proof that just months after the “Jungle” shantytown was fl attened and 10,000 refugees evicted a new crisis is about to unfold on our doorstep.
Last week riot police used tear gas to disperse a mob who used roadblocks to force British-bound trucks to slow down on their approach to the ferry terminal.
Gangs pelted vehicles with stones and then charged forward, attempting to clamber aboard. One driver suffered a broken nose after a missile was thrown through his windscreen.
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Police have used tear gas against groups of migrants since the destruction of the Jungle camp
The spike in violence has prompted calls for the deployment of soldiers to protect those who have to reach the port.
Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Since the summer of 2015 international hauliers have suffered attacks and intimidation from migrants whose sole aim is to reach the UK by whatever means possible.
“As we enter a third summer the situation, despite the dismantling of the Jungle, is once again deteriorating rapidly. The determination of the migrants is putting lives and livelihoods at risk and the cost to UK-bound hauliers is immense.
The French Government has been urged to take urgent action to prevent the crisis escalating
“Their safety cannot be put in jeopardy as a result of increasing mayhem.”
M Bertrand, president of the Hauts-de-France region which covers Calais, said he was promised riot police had “all the means in their possession” to expel migrants.
Yet the growing number arriving in the area shows the authorities were helpless to stem the tide. His letter to M Philippe, appointed earlier this month by new president Emmanuel Macron, is a sign of growing tension as the summer season approaches.
There are now thought to be at least 700 migrants living in several small, unofficial camps within a 30 mile radius of the port town, with more arriving daily.
Theresa May has vowed to bring immigration down to ‘the tens of thousands’
One of the main routes to Europe is from Libya where trafficking gangs pack African refugees on to boats to cross the Mediterranean.
M Bertrand has demanded a maritime blockade off the Libyan coast to seal off the smuggling pipeline, adding: “I hope… these persons will finally be arrested and returned to their countries.”
Charlie Elphicke, the Tory Parliamentary candidate for Dover, said: “The French must stop any new camps from forming before the first tent is pitched and we need to make Britain’s borders stronger starting with investment at the Dover frontline.”
Home Office figures show £315.9million has been spent since 2010 bolstering security in northern France, with £111million spent at the height of the chaos in 2015.