French border chief says UK 'a magnet for illegal immigrants'


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The Independent Online

The immigration chief in Calais has said the UK has created "a magnet for illegal immigrants."

Philippe Mignonet, the French port town's deputy mayor, claimed up to 40 migrants a night were getting through to the UK, despite the UK and French border agencies' efforts to stop them.

He also accused Britain of hypocrisy for talking tough on immigration whilst allowing migrants to stay in the country, and called for border controls - a fundamentally "British problem" - to be transferred from Calais to Dover.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "The quickest, most radical and easiest solution would be simply to shift the border from Calais to Dover and Folkestone and then the problem wouldn't be handled in France but Britain.

"The ease with which illegal immigrants can work on the black market in Britain, coupled with the fact that migrants' family members can more easily join them, means that Britain is a magnet for illegal immigrants."

French interior minister Manuel Valls last week pledged police reinforcements for Calais, where many migrants make or attempt the Channel crossing, to deal with migrants.

He also said he had invited Home Secretary Theresa May to visit the town next year to renegotiate an arrangement under which Britain pays towards the policing of migrants in Calais, with British police and border officials operating on the French side of the Channel.

The Public Accounts Committee last week charged the Border Agency with failing to meet eight of its 19 performance targets.

A decision to prioritise passenger checks last year meant that illegal immigrant checks on freight had been suspended, the committee said.

Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: "The Border Force prioritised passenger checks on arrival at the expense of other duties and weakened the security of our borders.

"The force neglected to examine freight for illicit goods, neglected to check lorries in Calais for concealed illegal entrants, and failed to check passengers coming into Britain on private planes or boats, potentially letting billionaire gangsters off the hook."