Fortress Calais: UK, France to build police outpost to tackle human traffickers

Britain is to build a police command center in the French port town of Calais. It will be charged with tackling people-smuggling as part of a bilateral deal with France aimed at alleviating the ongoing migrant crisis.

Home Secretary Theresa May will visit Calais on Thursday, where she will sign the joint-declaration focusing on bolstering border security around the port with her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve.

Human rights campaigners have urged May to drop the British government’s “tough rhetoric” on migrants during her trip to France and instead focus on how the UK can save lives.

Amnesty International said on Thursday that Europe is in the midst of the biggest global refugee crisis since the Second World War and called on the UK to work alongside EU member states to protect “desperate people.”

British police will be deployed to Calais as part of a new command and control center which will operate alongside French counterparts and report directly to the Home Office.

The joint-operation will seek to disrupt and prosecute organized criminals, who attempt to traffic migrants illegally into northern France and across the English Channel to Britain.

Security is also a key part of the deal, which confirms the deployment of extra French police units and freight search teams. Britain has agreed to provide additional fencing, CCTV, flood lighting and infrared detection technology to secure the Eurotunnel.

The UK has so far pledged £22 million (US$34.5 million) towards security at the port. The new measures have seen the number of migrants attempting to access the tunnel fall to between 100 and 200 per night.

Some 5,000 people are estimated to be camped in the French port. The vast majority are fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, according to the EU border agency Frontex.

At least nine people are known to have died trying to cross the Channel from Calais to Dover since June.

Senior British ministers have used controversial language in talk about the crisis, with Prime Minister David Cameron describing migrants as “a swarm.

Amnesty International called on the home secretary to drop “tough” rhetoric on refugees and start discussions on how to protect “vulnerable” migrants, many of whom are fleeing warzones.

The human rights group said Europe is facing a global refugee crisis, which it can’t ignore.

We need to see the creation of safe and legal routes for those trying to enter Europe so they don’t have to risk drowning in the Mediterranean or being crushed under lorries at Calais,” said Steve Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee program director.

The UK should be playing a far more constructive part in this crisis, including by working with our EU partners to see how Britain can provide protection to some of the desperate people fleeing conflict and persecution.

When Theresa May goes to Calais tomorrow she should drop the ‘tough’ rhetoric on refugees and start talking about how the UK can save lives and protect the vulnerable,” he added.

Official figures from the European Union’s border agency Frontex revealed the number of migrants entering the EU in July this year surpassed 100,000, more than triple the figure recorded for July 2014.

It also marked the first time more than 100,000 migrants have entered the EU in a single month since records began in 2008.

Frontex said in a press release the majority of migrants were fleeing from conflict zones or national instability.

Syrians and Afghans accounted for a lion’s share of the record number of migrants entering the EU illegally. Most of them, fleeing instability in their home countries, initially entered Greece from Turkey,” the agency said.

RT spoke with one Afghan migrant in Calais, who formerly served as an interpreter for the British Army.

Khushal, known as ‘Happy’ to his former British Army colleagues, worked as an interpreter in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan. However, when Khushal finished his job with British forces, he began receiving death threats, allegedly from the Taliban.

He applied to come to the UK under the interpreters’ visa scheme. Fearing for his life, and having received no reply from the Home Office, he has decided to make the journey illegally.

I have faced big risks in my life, I have to face this one as well. I have to do this, it’s my last option,” he said.