European Union/migration issues/United Kingdom
Since the beginning of the year, Europe has been facing an exceptional migration crisis, with nearly 230,000 illegal entries to the Schengen Area from the Horn of Africa, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
This exceptional migration situation is having tragic human consequences. It is having particularly severe repercussions in Calais, which is experiencing unprecedented migratory pressure, with 3,000 migrants trying to enter the United Kingdom, sometimes at risk to their lives.
Calais is a mirror of the conflicts and crises tearing some regions of the world apart. The longer the war in Syria goes on and the more abject poverty thrives in the Horn of Africa, the more people are driven into exodus, try to reach Europe and – in some cases – wait in Calais for the opportunity to cross to England.
Yesterday another migrant died while trying to reach the UK via the tunnel. This brings to nine the number of migrants who have lost their lives since 26 June, seven of them inside the tunnel. I share the pain of all the state actors, public services and voluntary organizations who work closely with the migrants on a daily basis and support them in every way, and for whom these tragic deaths are not trivial occurrences but the deaths of men and women in extremely vulnerable situations.
In the face of this tragic human situation, France is committing exceptional resources and knows it can count on the fruitful partnership forged with the UK.
Indeed, yesterday I met my British counterpart, Theresa May, and managed to get the UK to contribute an additional €10 million, in particular for making the Eurotunnel site secure. This new commitment adds to the €15 million already provided in the framework of last September’s joint declaration, particularly for making the port secure. We also took the decision to step up our intelligence cooperation.
For its part, the state will further increase the resources it is devoting to making the border secure, and in particular to the Eurotunnel site. I say this without wishing to enter into a debate, because the situation we are facing calls for a spirit of responsibility. I want to announce this morning that two riot police units – i.e. 120 staff – will be temporarily assigned to Calais, to help make the site more secure.
In Calais, the government is shouldering all its responsibilities: whether it be maintaining law and order, dismantling networks, removing foreigners illegally present or providing humanitarian solutions for migrants and asylum seekers. The Eurotunnel Group must also shoulder its responsibilitues, particularly as regards security in the tunnel itself. The dialogue between the government departments and Eurotunnel is ongoing, in a situation which we must face together, including by devoting human resources commensurate with the challenge. For its part, the government has increased fivefold the number of police devoted to handling the situation in Calais since 2012.
This government action in Calais builds on the exceptional efforts made over the past nine months:
Making the border secure through the construction of fencing around the port and the tunnel and exceptional police back-up;
The evacuation of all illegal camps in the city centre;
Increasing the resources devoted by the border police to forced repatriations and to dismantling illegal immigration rings; 17 rings targeting the UK have been dismantled since the beginning of the year – four times more than in the whole of 2014;
The provision of humanitarian care in the Jules Ferry centre, comprising day care and, for 110 women and children, accommodation, amounting to more than €10 million, funded by the government and the European Union; the migrants are thus provided with 2,000 meals every evening;
The facilitation of requests for asylum in France for those migrants who are eligible: in the past nine months, 930 migrants have thus been able to benefit from provision and accommodation outside Calais after making requests for asylum in France.
In close communication with the European institutions and the United Kingdom,
France will continue this comprehensive action, which is intended to allow migrants to receive appropriate care in accordance with their rights, whilst restricting the illegal intrusions whose tragic consequences call us collectively to a duty of responsibility.
The issue we are facing is exceptionally serious. It is also exceptionally complex. It has echoes of the unrest which has taken hold in certain areas of the world. In order to be resolved, it calls for resolute action from the European Union. France has been at the forefront in ensuring that comprehensive, powerful European solutions can allow migrants to be treated humanely in cases where they are eligible for refugee status in Europe, and firmly in cases where they are present illegally after crossing the European Union’s external borders. We – I and my British, but also my German,
Spanish and Italian counterparts – wish to work with the countries of origin, in the framework of proactive co-development policies which prevent migrants from being left in the hands of these cynical people-smuggling organizations. The setting-up of hot spots in Italy and Greece, at a time when the EU’s external borders are being crossed [illegally], should allow us to identify more effectively those eligible for refugee status and arrange for those present illegally to be escorted to the border.
Our action is resolute. Our wish is to show solidarity towards those suffering persecution, and we also have a responsibility. This is why we shall continue to act, and it is why we must step up our cooperation with all those who, alongside us, can resolve this problem, whose human cost is high and which we have been facing now for several months.