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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

France’s Macron visits Calais amid pressure over migration crisis

The French President said he would never allow another migrant camp like the Jungle to appear again

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would never allow a camp like the Jungle to appear again. Etienne Laurent/ EPA
French President Emmanuel Macron said he would never allow a camp like the Jungle to appear again. Etienne Laurent/ EPA

France’s president Emmanuel Macron took a hard line on migration on Tuesday as he promoted reforms designed to speed up deportation procedures during a visit the country's north coast.

The French leader toured Calais, the town that has seen thousands of migrants congregate to make desperate bids to illegally enter Britain.The area is home to makeshift migrant settlements including the notorious Jungle, which was demolished in 2016 by French authorities.

Mr Macron, a centrist politician, has been criticised by charities and pro-migrant groups for a tougher approach to the crisis since taking office last June after his government launched a crackdown on migrants sleeping rough on the streets in Paris and Calais.

In order to prevent a new jungle springing up, police take down tents on a daily basis, leaving migrants to simply move around the northern coast waiting for an opportunity to cross the Channel.

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During his visit, the French President announced a major review of immigration and asylum policies aimed at solving the problem.

He said in a speech he would never allow another migrant camp like the Jungle to appear again.

The government is hoping to pass new legislation that sets new rules to control the flow of migrants and updates asylum laws to speed up the processing of applications and deportation for failed candidates.

“The actions carried out locally at Calais illustrate the government’s approach to the question of asylum and immigration with the establishing of experimental solutions regarding the housing of migrants and helping them with the administrative process,” the Elysée said in a statement.

Mr Macron met with charities as well as migrants, although two NGOs refused his invitation over policing measures designed to stop another makeshift camp forming.

The president also acknowledged pressure to act from the residents of Calais, who voted overwhelmingly for his opponent the anti-immigration candidate Marine Le Penn in the presidential elections earlier this year.

Mr Macron’s visit comes two days before an Anglo-French summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May in which the migration crisis is expected to be discussed.

France has long felt Britain has not carried its fair share of the burden and is seeking changes to the Le Touquet agreement, a treaty signed in 2003 which allowed both countries to carry out border controls on each other’s soil.

Under the agreement, illegal immigrants found in France cannot enter Britain and are prevented from doing so by British border guards stationed in Calais. The onus for dealing with asylum seekers waiting to hear about their status as well as failed asylum seekers is therefore on France.

France received a record 100,000 asylum applications in 2017.

In an interview published on Sunday, France’s interior minister Gerard Collomb said he would be demanding “concrete measures” from Mrs May, specifically on taking in more unaccompanied minors and allotting more financial resources to the policing of the border.