Calais standoff: Syrian asylum-seeker threatens to jump from ferry terminal roof


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The Independent Online

A Syrian asylum-seeker attempted to throw himself from the roof of the ferry terminal in Calais today after a day of negotiations with French and British authorities failed to satisfy 50 Syrians who have been squatting on a gangway at the channel port since Wednesday.

The man was dragged back before he could throw himself off but the situation remained tense and volatile last night.

Earlier French riot police had attempted to remove the Syrian squatters, including women and children, who are demanding the right to enter Britain where they say they have relatives. The police backed off when two young Syrian men climbed on to the roof of the ferry terminal and threatened to jump.

Representatives of the squatters then met French and British officials for negotiations, which were also attended by the mayor of Calais and human rights groups. Officials from the Border Agency offered to allow the Syrians to cross the Channel on a case by case basis so long as they could prove they had relatives in Britain. The French authorities said that the remainder would be offered temporary status and accommodation in France as refugees of the Syrian civil war but the offer was rejected by the Syrians who insisted on entering Britain as a group.

A group of Syrians then climbed back on to the ferry terminal roof in protest late this afternoon.

Human rights groups say the Syrians believe they have a right to go to Britain because the Government has offered help to bona fide refugees from the Syrian civil war.