- French government logged 17,867 efforts to break into port and Channel Tunnel
- Asylum seekers also tried 12,349 times to stow away on Britain-bound lorries
- Figures come nearly a year after closure of the notorious Jungle migrant camp
The French interior ministry logged 17,867 efforts to break into the fortified zone around the port and Channel Tunnel.
Asylum seekers also tried 12,349 times to stow away on UK-bound lorries. The figures come nearly a year after the closure of the notorious Jungle migrant camp in Calais – raising fears of another shantytown springing up there.
The French insist only around 350 migrants are in the Calais area yet charities say the true figure is at least twice that.
Small groups are sleeping rough in woodland a few hundred yards from the Jungle camp that was once home to 10,000 people.
Charlie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover and Deal, last night urged French president Emmanuel Macron to get a grip on the situation. ‘The shocking figures underline the importance of keeping the border between Dover and Calais strong, safe and secure,’ he said.
‘It matters to France every bit as much as Britain because a strong border means that Calais will not act as a magnet.
‘Migrants would not go there if they knew they had no hope.’
A direct comparison with figures from last year is not available. But previous estimates from the French authorities suggested there were between 25,000 and 28,000 attempts to breach border security around Calais from January to August 2016.
All the statistics relate to individual attempts to find a way into Britain and may represent multiple efforts by the same people. It remains unclear how many migrants have sneaked into Britain this year through Calais.
A spokesman for Eurotunnel insisted last night that its security arrangements were robust and the continued pressure had not affected operations.
The most dangerous route into Britain remains the roads surrounding the ports, with 40 migrants and a Polish lorry driver dying since 2015. Ukip MEP Mike Hookem said it was ‘only a matter of time before more truckers are killed or injured’ in clashes with would-be stowaways.
Crowds of migrants gather at night in Calais to receive food and aid packages prepared by local charities. They can also be seen walking on busy roads leading to the port, dangerously dashing out in front of traffic. Last week some were escorted off a tourist coach heading for Britain.
After shutting down the Jungle, French officials moved migrants to accommodation centres dotted around the country in a bid to ease the pressure on Calais.
Tensions with local officials rose again last week when French ministers announced the opening of two centres roughly 50 miles from Calais.
Small buses arrived in the port yesterday to take the migrants to the two developments, one a historic abbey in a quaint village.
Aid workers have told migrants that travelling to the centres could result in deportation to the first EU country they were logged in under Dublin regulations.
France’s top administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, ruled last week that the treatment of migrants and refugees around Calais was unlawful and said water and sanitation facilities must be set up.
Charities and human rights groups had argued that the squalid conditions of the makeshift camps were inhumane. Many of the refugees and migrants have developed skin diseases because they have no way of washing themselves or their clothes.
Calais deputy mayor Philippe Mignonet responded to the ruling by claiming ‘a new jungle could emerge any time if we are not careful’.
Mr Macron has promised to ensure no migrants are on the streets by the end of the year, pledging to provide them with ‘dignified’ housing. His government has bought 62 cheap hotels across the country from the Formule 1 chain and is turning them into shelters for 6,000 people.
Interior minister Gerard Collomb said on Sunday that France did not ‘want to repeat past experiences, where we started with a centre of 400 people and finished at 8,000’.