UK, France boost security

Updated: 2015-08-21 07:40

By Agencies in Calais, France(China Daily)

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Joint effort aims to prevent illegal entry from Calais into Eurotunnel

Britain and France are fortifying security around the Channel Tunnel and boosting intelligence efforts against traffickers as they try to dissuade thousands of migrants from trying to make the illegal - and sometimes deadly - undersea journey to British shores.

Better fencing, surveillance cameras, flood lighting and infrared detection technology will be installed around the entrance to the tunnel in the French port of Calais, as part of joint efforts being announced on Thursday, according to a British statement.

Led by one British and one French senior commander, the officers will work in a "command and control center" to be built near the tunnel entrance, the British Home Office said. The center will aim to better coordinate intelligence to "find and disrupt" migrant trafficking gangs.

The two governments also agreed to boost security within the 50-km tunnel and increase French police deployment around Calais.

No time frame or cost has been provided for the new measures.

British Home Secretary Theresa May and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve were to meet at the tunnel entrance on Thursday and announce the new joint command center.

Calais has been a flashpoint in a European summer marked by unusually large waves of migrants. Since the start of June, at least 10 migrants have died trying to sneak through the Channel Tunnel in hopes of finding prosperity in Britain. Countless others have slipped through undetected on trucks and one recently on foot.

Britain and France have accused each other of not doing enough to manage the migrants.

The number of attempted tunnel crossings has already dropped to about 150 a night since emergency security measures were put in place, down from a height of about 2,000 in late July, Eurotunnel says. The number includes multiple attempts by the same refugees.

French authorities will also strengthen support for aid groups and local officials helping the most vulnerable migrants, Cazeneuve's office said in a statement. The French government has come under criticism for not doing enough to help the migrants in Calais, most of whom live in crude self-made shelters.

Keith Vaz, who chairs a British parliamentary body scrutinizing the work of May's ministry, welcomed the agreement but warned there was already evidence of greater "illegal activity" at other Channel ports in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

"Closing off one route will only mean the problem moves to another port," he said.

"We need agreements with countries across the north coast (of Europe) to stop this situation developing before we see Calais-like crises spring up at ports across the continent."

Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Sunday that the issue could become a bigger challenge for the EU than the Greek debt crisis.

EU border agency Frontex on Tuesday reported a record high of 107,500 migrants at the European Union's borders last month.