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Critics Hit Out At New Sangatte Style Refugee Camp

Aug 1, 2010
Critics have hit out at French plans to build a £1.1m style Sangatte camp in Dunkirk, claiming that it will see an influx of refugees that are attempting to get over the border to the UK. Since ferry crossings in Calais have seen more rigorous security checks, an increasing number of refugees have been heading for ferry ports like the one in Dunkirk, while many critics have pointed to the riots of Sangatte and the prevalence of people trafficking gangs that operated at the camp before it was closed.

Political critics have also pointed out that the French government said, at the time that Sangatte was closed, that there would never be another camp of that type opened in France. Although the French government are to pick up the £1.1m bill, there are concerns that security will be poor and that the British taxpayer will once again be expected to foot the bill, in a similar fashion to the millions of public funded money that was used to help secure the Calais crossing and borders.

The closure of the Sangatte camp in 2002 was heralded as a triumph of diplomatic agreement between the English and the French. The camp held approximately 2,000 refugees and was meant to provide a safe haven and shelter for those that were fleeing war and poverty in their home countries. However, people trafficking gangs set up within the camp, enticing, coercing, and forcing camp members to join. Riots eventually broke out within the camp, and it was agreed that the best option would be to close Sangatte down.

Eric Besson, the French immigration minister at the time, said of the closing of Sangatte that they “did not shut down Sangatte only to reopen it in another form, even a watered down one.†He went on to say that opening such a camp would not be a solution to a humanitarian problem but would be an additional humanitarian problem. However, the French government has taken the decision to open a similarly styled camp within the close vicinity of shanty town Grand-Synthe.

The new camp site is 50 miles away from Calais, and represents another viable means of crossing into the UK. The area has become increasingly popular with migrants looking to cross to the UK, especially since security checks were improved at Calais and on Calais ferries. The new migrant centre will cost £1.1m, which the French government will fund, but rather than being a short-term solution, the inclusion of permanent refugee aid buildings signifies that it will remain open for the long term.

Groups and politicians have raised a number of concerns over the establishment of the camp. Even though the French government is paying for the development of the camp, there are those that believe it will fall to the UK taxpayer to shore up defences and border controls, similar to the way that funding has been provided to improve Calais security. The primary concern, however, is that it will encourage tens of thousands of migrants to North France, where it is only a short ferry ride to the UK.
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