The mayor of Calais, which is the closest town on the European mainland from the United Kingdom and houses a major ferry terminal, has threatened to shut down its port facility unless Britain helps the border town deal with hundreds of migrants camping there in the hope that they will be able to cross the English Channel into Britain.
Reacting to London’s demand that Calais increase security at its port without contributing to the costs, which amount to $13 million annually, Bouchart criticized the immigration policy in the UK, which she said is “considered as an Eldorado” for immigrants. Most of the 1,300 migrants in the town are from the East African nations of Eritrea or Somalia. However, in recent months, rising numbers of people fleeing war-torn Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have reached its shores in hopes to reach England rather than seek asylum in France.
“I could take the decision to block the port ... I could bring pressure to bear,” Natacha Bouchart, mayor of the northern French port town, reportedly told journalists in Paris after meeting Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s interior minister, Agence France-Presse, or AFP, reported.
While Bouchart said that she did not discuss the possibility of blocking the port with the interior minister because she was aware that he could not back such a measure, she reportedly said: “I told him that I hoped he would have some strong negotiations with the British.” In London last Friday, Cazeneuve called on the British to provided financial assistance for security at the port, the AFP report said, citing a ministry source.
An agreement was reportedly made by Bouchart and Cazeneuve to open a day center in Calais for migrants, many of whom are from Africa, as well as a night shelter for women and children.
In 1999, the Red Cross opened a center in Calais but it became rapidly overcrowded, serving over 2,000 people instead of the 800 people it was built for. The center was shut down in 2002, the AFP report said.