David Cameron admits Calais crisis will last all summer

Philippe Mignonet, the deputy mayor of the French port, said his town had been 'sacrificed' by Britain

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The Independent Online

Prime Minister David Cameron has admitted that the chaos in Calais will last all summer as he launched his latest attempt to control the crisis amid accusations from France that his response has been “racist”.

Philippe Mignonet, the deputy mayor of the French port, said his town had been “sacrificed” by Britain and angrily condemned Mr Cameron’s use of the word “swarm” to describe migrants arriving across the Mediterranean.

The problems on the other side of the Straits of Dover showed no sign of diminishing as traffic into Calais’s ferry port once more ground to a halt when striking workers blocked the main motorway by lighting piles of tyres. Long tailbacks were caused as a thick plume of black smoke rose above the city.

Mr Cameron, returning from a visit promoting trade in South East Asia, sought to take personal control of the Government’s efforts to resolve the situation, pledging fresh measures to further boost security at the Channel Tunnel, including sniffer dogs and extra fencing.

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David Cameron arrives for a private event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday, July 30, 2015 (AP)

But hauliers described the moves as a “sticking plaster” and the Prime Minister acknowledged that the disruption in Calais is likely to last for at least several more weeks.

Speaking after chairing a meeting of the emergency COBR committee, Mr Cameron said: “The situation is not acceptable and is absolutely this Government’s priority to deal with it in every way we can… We are absolutely on it. We know it needs more work. We rule nothing out in dealing with this very serious problem.”

He added: “This is going to be a difficult issue right across the summer.”

The discomfiting prediction came amid evidence of the strain being placed on Anglo-French relations by the continuing problems caused by the presence of up to 4,000 migrants in Calais trying to reach Britain. The Channel Tunnel was the subject of attempts by several hundred people to breach fences and smuggle their way onto freight trains for the fourth night in a row on 30 July.

Mr Mignonet said Britain was shirking its responsibility for the crisis and seeking to blame France for a situation which was severely impacting a town already struggling with high unemployment.

He told Channel 5 News: “It’s always the same, the French authorities are always blamed for what’s happening around the tunnel, around the port and in the city. It’s already a disaster, an economic disaster for the city.”

The deputy mayor reserved particular criticism for Mr Cameron’s use of the word “swarm”, which Downing Street  insisted was solely a reference to the scale of the migrant influx from Libya and elsewhere.

Mr Mignonet said: “The racist or extremist words - I just can’t accept them.”

Downing Street said the package of measures being put together included UK funding of joint Anglo-French flights to repatriate migrants to countries such as Sudan, along with plans to create alternative parking zones in Kent for freight traffic currently being held on the M20 for Operation Stack.

Medical workers in Calais said Britain needed to focus on an European Union-wide solution to immigration and asylum, and in the meantime should help resolve the needs of the town’s 4,000 migrants, most of them living in a makeshift shanty town known as the “new jungle”. Charities have reported outbreaks of skin conditions and breathing problems as well injuries caused by attempts to jump on trucks and trains.

Leigh Daynes, executive director of Doctors of the World UK, said: “Higher fences and more sniffer dogs won’t solve the Calais crisis. Some of the millions spent on vamping up Calais security would be better spent on meeting the serious humanitarian health needs of the migrants.”

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