French drop plans for new refugee centre

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The Independent Online

The French government has agreed to drop plans for a second centre for cross-Channel asylum-seekers after ministerial talks with Britain in Paris.

British officials will travel to the refugee camp at Sangatte to show videos and hand out leaflets to asylum-seekers to discourage them from seeking the good life in the UK.

A senior Home Office source said the information campaign would say: "It's not a soft touch ... there are detention centres and vouchers".

The source said: "Many of these people have been victims of people traffickers. Hopefully this will disabuse them if they have been spun a line about the UK and they will make some other decision."

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and his French counterpart, Daniel Vaillant, the Interior Minister, agreed that a large new contingent of British immigration officers would be drafted to the Calais end of the Channel Tunnel to help French police to tighten security at the Eurotunnel terminals.

Mr Blunkett and Mr Vaillant are to make a joint visit to the Balkans to examine the smuggling routes used to bring illegal migrants to northern Europe.

The two governments have agreed to work together in Brussels to adopt common European Union procedures for asylum-seekers to prevent migrants from "shopping" for asylum in the country of their choice.

Closing the Sangatte camp has been ruled out. If the asylum-seekers had nowhere to go, French officials said, they would sleep rough in Calais, as they did before the centre opened two years ago.

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