Calais migrant crisis: UK to beef up border security with 9ft high, 2.5 mile fence
Britain will deploy two-and-a-half miles (4km) of high-security fencing to the UK border in France in a bid to prevent illegal migrants from entering the Channel Tunnel, it has emerged.
Construction of the 9ft-high (2.74 meter) fence, known as the National Barrier Asset, which was used during last year’s NATO Summit and the London Olympics, will begin immediately at the lorry terminal in Coquelles, near Calais and should be completed by late July.
Minister of State for Immigration James Brokenshire said the government was concerned about the number of migrants attempting to storm the border in recent weeks.
He also said Britain is beefing up security in the hope of preventing jihadists from entering the UK after Friday’s beach massacre in Tunisia.
The additional security follows dramatic scenes last week, when migrants were photographed attempting to stowaway on UK-bound trucks left stranded in the port by a French ferry workers’ strike.
There are currently more than 3,000 migrants camped in and around Calais who are hoping to come to Britain.
The fence will be erected around the railway track and platforms used by trains that carry trucks to Britain.
Ministers said border officials stopped 39,000 attempts to cross the channel from France to the UK in the past year.
France has called for the border to be moved to the UK side of the Channel and said it should not be their responsibility to stop migrants.
Home Secretary Theresa May said government officials would meet with transport firms to discuss the new arrangements.
“We need to send a very clear message that people will not be able to get through,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
“James Brokenshire will be meeting with hauliers [transport workers] again this week to talk further about steps that can be taken to enhance security, to ensure that people aren’t able to get into the lorries [trucks] in the first place.
“We are working very closely with the French authorities on this issue. We have been doing a number of things to increase security around the port. We are making a number of changes at Calais to increase security, we’re also going to be putting some extra security fencing at Coquelles at the entrance to the tunnel,” she added.
A team would be sent to France on Monday to begin moving fencing, hardware and equipment, Brokenshire told the Telegraph.
The minister said he was concerned about the impact the migrant crisis may have on trade between the UK and Europe.
“It is extremely hard and extremely unsettling and I can only imagine the concern this causes to individual lorry drivers,” he said.
Brokenshire added there was a risk extremists could attempt to gain entry into Britain through Calais.
“It is not something we have seen to date, but it is something that we remain absolutely vigilant over. We are calling on the Italians and other southern Mediterranean states to ‘up’ their screening and the taking of biometrics and the like from those arriving on their shores.”
The situation in Calais is part of a wider immigration crisis, in which 60 million people around the world have been displaced, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
A Sudanese migrant hoping to cross the border from France to Britain said the squalid conditions of the camp in Calais were still better than life back home.
The computer engineer told the Times he had been tortured by the secret police in Sudan.
“They tortured me with electric shocks, suspending me from a pole and beating the soles of my feet till I screamed and interrogated me with a thousand questions about my brother, who they said was working in the opposition. I kept telling them we hadn’t seen him for six years.”
Willis, who goes by an alias to protect his family, fled the country at the first opportunity and hopes to seek asylum in the UK.
“My friends say, ‘When you get to England they take you to a hotel or a house and let you shower and it’s a good place,’” he said. “Not like here.”