Britain agreed Thursday to pledge an extra 20 million euros to beef up security at the northern French port city of Calais amid a refugee and economic migrant crisis. Some of the funds will be spent on new reception centers, where unaccompanied children can link up with relatives in the United Kingdom, while economic migrants not seeking asylum will be rejected, according to Stockholm-based news publisher the Local.
Following his meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in the northern French city of Amiens during the 34th Franco-British summit, French President François Hollande said unaccompanied minors at the Calais refugee camp who have relatives in the U.K. should be “quickly” reunited with them once the additional funds from Britain are implemented.
"When these youngsters have a family tie in the United Kingdom, they should go to the United Kingdom quickly and efficiently," Hollande reportedly said at the summit Thursday. "It should happen even faster and even more efficiently."
The United Kingdom has already doled out more than 60 million euros to increase security in Calais, particularly in the areas around the port and the entrance to the Channel Tunnel. The sum of the additional 20 million will be used to boost “security of the access zone to the tunnel … and fighting trafficking networks,” France’s minister for European affairs Harlem Desir told RFI radio, France24’s sister station.
Thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa have camped out in grim conditions in Calais, hoping to cross into Britain via the Eurotunnel under the English Channel. French authorities recently decided to destroy part of the Calais refugee camp, also known as “the Jungle,” and move its inhabitants to nearby heated trailers following reports of poor access to clean water, food and healthcare.
Officials estimated 1,000 people lived in the area slated for demolition, while representatives from nonprofit organizations said that number was closer to 3,500, including several hundred unaccompanied children. Refugees are protesting the demolition by lighting fire to their tents and pelting police with stones. Some have even sewn their lips shut, and one woman slit her wrists, according to various media reports.
Over one million asylum-seekers fleeing violent conflict in the Middle East and North Africa crossed into Europe in 2015. There has been an influx of more than 131,000 people this year.