Plan for £1.9m ‘Great Wall of Calais’ condemned as cruel and dangerous by refugee groups

Aid charity Doctors of the World called the spending of taxpayers’ money on the wall ‘as outrageous as it is ludicrous’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 07 September 2016 17:24 BST
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The Road Haulage Association believes that security levels need to be improved on the surrounding approach roads to Calais
The Road Haulage Association believes that security levels need to be improved on the surrounding approach roads to Calais (Getty)

Refugee groups have condemned plans for a £1.9m ‘Great Wall of Calais’ - to prevent migrants boarding lorries to cross the Channel to Britain - as cruel and dangerous.

The Government came under fire after revealing that a four-metre-high, one-kilometre-long wall would be part of the latest attempts to strengthen security, as the crisis at the French port grows.

Work is to start this month, along an approach road, to thwart migrants who have used rocks, shopping trolleys and tree trunks to try to stop vehicles – allowing them to climb aboard and reach Britain.

Doctors of the World, which provides care to refugees in Calais, called the spending of taxpayers’ money on the wall “as outrageous as it is ludicrous”.

Leigh Daynes, its executive director, said: “Bridges, not walls, are the answer to the humanitarian catastrophe in Calais.

“Walls do more than repel. They exacerbate the already fragile mental health of traumatised people. They are as cruel as they are meaningless in the face of a global refugee crisis that knows no boundaries.”

The criticism was echoed by Help Refugees, which says it is the largest provider of aid in Calais. It said the money should be spent on the people in The Jungle refugee camp. Lliana Bird, its co-founder, said: “Nearly 10,000 people, including nearly 1,000 children have simply been left to languish. As history has repeatedly shown us, building walls is never the solution.”


Migrants leaving the northern area of The Jungle migrant camp today 

 Migrants leaving the northern area of The Jungle migrant camp today 
 (Reuters)

And 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.”

The plan was revealed by the immigration minister, Robert Goodwill, who said it was part of a £17m package of joint Anglo-French security measures.

He 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 is expected to be made of smooth concrete, in an attempt to make it more difficult to scale, with plants and flowers on one side to make it less ugly, and be completed by the end of the year.

The Road Haulage Association has also said it will be a poor use of taxpayers' money, arguing that security levels need to be improved on the surrounding approach roads to Calais.

Both the SNP and Green MP Caroline Lucas likened the idea to Donald Trump’s much-criticised - and much-ridiculed - plans to force Mexico to build a wall to keep its migrants out of the United States.

In an article for The Independent, Ms Lucas said: “When Donald Trump said he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico, most of us recoiled. How had politics in the “land of the free” descended so low, so fast? Trumpism has now landed in Britain.”

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