British PM urges talks with French president to tackle Calais migrant crisis

French gendarmes chase migrants near a closed petrol station who gather as they attempt to access the Channel Tunnel in Calais, France, July 30, 2015. © Pascal Rossignol
Prime Minister David Cameron has called on President Francois Hollande to hold urgent talks to discuss the situation at the port of Calais, where the refugee crisis “could last all summer,” he said.

Cameron called the pictures of migrants tearing down fences and hanging onto trucks as they try to enter the Channel Tunnel “unacceptable”.

“We are absolutely on it. We know it needs more work,” Cameron said.

The interim UK Labour party leader, Harriet Harman, has said that France should cover the losses caused by the influx of migrants through the Channel Tunnel.

Harman added the UK government had "ignored repeated warnings" about the worsening situation at Calais, and that people and businesses should not bear the cost for "border security failures."

‘France and the UK can only solve this together’ – French MP

London needs to amend labor laws on illegal employment to stop the chaotic flow of migrants seeking to enter the UK through the French border town of Calais, Xavier Bertrand, a French MP and mayor of northern city of Saint-Quentin, told RT.

READ MORE: Send military to tackle Calais migrant crisis, say police chiefs

The Calais crisis, which in recent days has seen thousands of immigrants desperately trying to get through to the Eurotunnel to try and make the way across the British border, has attracted some strong words from UK politicians, including calls to send in troops to deal with the situation.

However, critics say that such rhetoric only distracts the public from the underlying causes of the migrant crisis. According to Bertrand, who visited the site and has been closely following the measures the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, has been taking, the reason why the migrants are rushing to the UK lies within British jurisdiction.

“UK’s labor laws are such that employment is possible with or without identification. This is the real reason [for mass immigration problem]. If the British want to get rid of this, they need to change the laws,” Bertrand said.

The traffic problems are unlikely to be solved by having the military to intervene, Bertrand believes. Instead, the army will only make things worse for local commercial traffic going through the Channel Tunnel.

Urging the UK government to deal with the origin of the problem, the French MP said forces should instead be sent to patrol Libya.

“We are proposing to block shipping routes near the Libyan coast. There are around 1 million people in Africa who are planning to get to Europe on boats from Libya. What we need to do is to set up a marine cordon in front of the Libyan, not Italian coast, so that migrants would not be able to reach the sea.”

Moreover, countries like Libya and Eritrea should get European support to help them develop and improve the situation, which makes people want to leave en masse, Bertrand said.

But to solve the current crisis, Britain and France cannot resort to bans or demonstrations of force. Instead the two nations need to sit down for talks and find solutions, the French MP said.

“The truth is that France and the UK can only solve this together… I have been suggesting to hold a French-British summit … to study all aspects of the problem – tourism, economy, migration – and make concrete decisions.”

“Until we can get to stop illegal immigration from Libya, until the UK labor laws are changed, until Calais residents are provided greater security – we will only be able to loudly discuss this topic, but never be able to do anything real to solve the problem.”

The UK-France border issue will be a sore point between two countries, according to Bertrand. If Cameron is getting ready to raise the question of the conditions surrounding UK’s EU membership, then France will bring up the issue of moving the border from Calais to the British city of Dover, he said.

Bertrand explained the current Eurotunnel crisis by the construction of additional barricades at the port, which was partly financed by the British. This development, he believes, has convinced the migrants that “the easiest way to the UK is through the Channel Tunnel.”