Mayor’s legal bid to stop UK building ‘Great Wall of Calais’ to stop refugees attempting to reach Britain fails

Local authorities rejected an injunction filed by Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart

Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 04 October 2016 13:59 BST
Residents of the Calais Jungle camp have been protesting about its scheduled demolition and plans to build a wall
Residents of the Calais Jungle camp have been protesting about its scheduled demolition and plans to build a wall (AFP/Getty)

A legal bid to stop the construction of a huge wall aiming to prevent asylum seekers boarding lorries to the UK has failed.

Dubbed the “Great Wall of Calais”, the project provoked outrage from human rights organisations when it was announced last month and a vow from local authorities to fight the British Government’s scheme.

The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, pledged to use “all legal weapons” at her disposal to prevent the UK-funded barrier being built.

She filed an injunction to stop construction work on the £1.9m barrier, which will stretch half a mile and stand at 13ft high on the outskirts of the Calais Jungle migrant camp.

France's Hollande says Calais 'Jungle' to be dismantled

But the local administration overruled the attempt on Monday, allowing building that began on 20 September to continue.

Ms Bouchart, a member of Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing Republicans party, initially backed a barrier separating the sprawling camp from a main road leading to the port but says there is now no need for such measures.

Francois Hollande, the French President, has vowed to dismantle the camp and relocate its estimated 7,000 to 10,000 residents before the onset of winter.

“Calais residents are fed up with seeing barriers and barbed wire everywhere,” Ms Bouchart told the AFP news agency. “They feel completely hemmed in.”

The British Government announced the planned wall last month as part of a £17m package of joint Anglo-French security measures.

Workers dig foundations of a wall near the camp along the road leading to the harbour of Calais (Getty)
Workers dig foundations of a wall near the camp along the road leading to the harbour of Calais (Getty) (Getty Images)

The immigration minister, Robert Goodwill, told a committee of MPs: “People are still getting through. We have done the fences, now we are doing the wall.

“We are going to start building this big, new wall as part of the £17m package we are doing with the French. There is still more to do. We have also invested in space for 200 lorries at Calais so that they have somewhere safe to wait.”

It comes after more than a year of the refugee crisis, seeing thousands of asylum seekers journey through Europe to the northern French port and attempt to board ferries and lorries to the UK.

Several migrants, including a 14-year-old boy, have died in the desperate attempts and refugee agencies have long warned of the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in the Jungle.

Attempts to reach Britain peaked last year, when thousands of asylum seekers climbed fences on to the main road to Calais’s port, blocking traffic and using rocks, shopping trolleys and tree trunks to try to stop vehicles.

The chaotic scenes and fears among British tourists and lorry drivers have driven support for the wall but humanitarian organisations said the plans were another example of Europe’s failure to form permanent solutions to the refugee crisis.

Steve Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee expert, said: “This plan is yet another example of European governments’ failure of leadership on the refugee crisis and their shocking inability to come up with a humane response.

“A wall will simply further empower smugglers by forcing people to take even greater risks to get across the Channel.”

In an article for The Independent, Green MP Caroline Lucas drew comparisons to Donald Trump’s call for a wall to stop immigrants crossing into the US from Mexico.

“Most of us recoiled,” she wrote. “How had politics in the ‘land of the free’ descended so low, so fast? Trumpism has now landed in Britain.”

A group of Tory MPs is demanding unaccompanied children with family in the UK should be resettled from the Jungle before it is closed, but Theresa May’s government has made no move to acquiesce to repeated calls for the most vulnerable asylum seekers to be transported.

Meanwhile, residents of the camp have been protesting about its scheduled demolition, with a demonstration ending with clashes between migrants and police firing tear gas and water cannons on Saturday.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said the construction of the wall continues, with completion expected by the end of the year.

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