EU plans 4-meter high Eurotunnel anti-immigration fence, points to 'major crisis'

EU plans 4-meter high Eurotunnel anti-immigration fence, points to 'major crisis'
Instead of building a fence or sending immigrants back to Africa, both the British and the French authorities need to coordinate their action and take a joint approach to deal with the Calais migrant crisis, says Keith Best, former Vice Chair of the European Council for Refugees and Exiles.

At least one migrant has died - thought to be a young Sudanese - trying to reach Britain from France. He was apparently hit by a truck and was one of around 1500 illegals attempting to enter the Eurotunnel terminal at the French port of Calais. It's the second night in a row that migrants have swarmed the tunnel. On Monday night, two thousand people poured through gaps in security fences, and then tried to cling to high-speed trains.

READ MORE: 1 dead after 1,500 migrants storm Eurotunnel in France for 2nd night

RT: Eurotunnel is planning to install a 4-metre high fence. Is this going to be a sustainable solution to this problem?

Keith Best: Probably not. This is developing into a major crisis and quite frankly both the British and the French authorities need to coordinate their action and take a joint approach to this. What I have proposed is that bearing in mind that we have British immigration offices on French soil in a system which is known as “juxtaposed controls” where British immigration officials can vet people coming into the UK before they actually leave the territory of France. What I suggest it is that we should have joint processing. We should have British officials and French officials sitting down and examining the claims of those who seek asylum and making sure that those who have a legitimate interest in claiming asylum in the UK are admitted safely without the risk to life and limb of crossing the Channel to the UK. But also, likewise, those who have the legitimate right to claim asylum in France are admitted to the process.

The French have only just changed the law. It’s been a long time and it could take up to two years for somebody claiming asylum in France to be admitted to the process. They have now changed the law saying that it should be only nine months. We’ve got to wait and see whether that is translated into reality or not. But the fact is that I’m afraid it’s very difficult for people to claim asylum in France. And because English is such a widespread second language, and many of these people are coming from countries where English is widely spoken as a second language, of course it’s understandable they want to get to the UK.

RT: The British Home Secretary Theresa May has said London and Paris will work on a scheme to send the immigrants back to West Africa. How can this work?

KB: That is a nightmare in itself. We’ve seen the problem between the French and the Italians with the French trying to send people back to Italy, and the Italians not excepting them. This whole idea of bouncing people around between borders is not a successful solution. Many of these people are now coming from places like Syria, obviously, Afghanistan still; they are coming through the Balkan states; they are coming across the Mediterranean to Greece.

Greece has taken 100,000 asylum seekers in the first six months of this year. It is disproportionate. There is a country that is struggling with its own economy, and suddenly having all these people arriving on its shores, trying to deal with those people is a major problem. These are not my figures - there are the figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

There needs to be a Europe-wide solution to this. Sadly every nation in Europe, every member state seems to be falling over each other for saying: “Not in my back yard.” We need to have much more acquis communautaire- much more a sense of cooperation within Europe to try to solve this crisis.

Of course, I didn’t think anybody in this country, or in Russia, or in anywhere else would question why people are seeking to flee from war zones such as Syria, and some of those other troubled states. The reality is: If Europe does not take a sensible and principled stand in trying to accommodate some of these people then it frankly is falling down on its own humanitarian and human rights obligations.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.