Home Secretary to reject calls to modify Calais border deal

Amber Rudd is due to discuss security with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on first overseas trip

May Bulman
Tuesday 30 August 2016 08:32
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Ms Rudd is expected to reject calls to change border control agreements with France
Ms Rudd is expected to reject calls to change border control agreements with France

The Home Secretary Amber Rudd is expected to reject calls for changes to border control agreements between the UK and France when she meets her French counterpart later on Tuesday

Amber Rudd is due to discuss security with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve during the scheduled trip - her first official overseas engagement since taking up the post.

But the issue of the border has climbed up the agenda after a senior French politician claimed on Monday that France should tear up the deal which allows Britain to impose border checks on refugees and migrants in Calais unless it is radically changed.

Xavier Bertrand, president of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region, said action was needed to deal with the sprawling Jungle camp in which 9,000 people are thought to live.

Currently, under Le Touquet treaty, British officials check passports in France and vice versa, but migrants in France cannot claim UK asylum until they cross the channel.

The regional president claimed that while the 2003 Touquet agreement helps to fight terrorism, it was not an effective arrangement for dealing with the numbers of migrants.

Mr Betrand suggested that to prevent migrants from risking their lives crossing to the UK, "hotspots" should be established in Calais so they can apply for UK asylum on French soil.

If successful they would be taken to the UK, and if unsuccessful they would be deported from France to their countries of origin.

The Home Office has flatly rejected the idea with sources telling The Telegraph that the suggestion was a "complete non-starter".

Mr Bertrand has said there should be ‘hotspots’ on the Calais border for those seeking asylum

Mr Bertrand said: "[Migrants] want to go to England. Why? Because they know it is possible to work in the UK.

"I want a new treatment of asylum claims for migrants who want to claim asylum in England. It is not possible to keep the border here without a new agreement between the French and British governments."

Mr Bertrand added that if the UK did not agree to open a discussion on the matter, France would pull out of Le Touquet treaty altogether.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We remain committed to working together to protect our shared border in Calais and to maintain the juxtaposed controls.

“The French government have repeatedly made it clear that removing the juxtaposed controls would not be in the interests of France.

“The French President reiterated this again at a joint press conference with the Prime Minister on 21 July.

“We firmly believe in the established principle, enshrined in the Dublin Regulation, that those in need of protection should seek asylum in the first safe country they enter.”

Elsewhere, two candidates for next year’s French presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppe, have claimed the treaty with the UK is not fit for purpose and implied the border should be moved to British soil.

Speaking at a political rally recently, Mr Sarkozy said: “I'm demanding the opening of a centre in Britain to deal with asylum seekers there so that Britain can do the work that concerns them."

Sir Peter Ricketts, former British ambassador to Paris, said Mr Bertrand’s suggestion of establishing UK asylum claim stations on the French border would lead to more migrants arriving in Calais.

He told Radio 4’s Today programme: "The asylum system has always worked on principle that people apply for asylum where they are.

"As soon as you suggest that people can apply for UK asylum in Calais, that would create a huge magnet, bringing more and more migrants into Calais. It wouldn’t help the French deal with the problem. It would make it worse."

The number of migrants living in the so-called "Jungle" camp has risen from 5,178 to 9,106 in four months between May and August, according to the latest census by Help Refugees and l’Auberge des Migrants.

The charities said the number was expected to reach over 10,000 in September.

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