No Paris-London deal to close Sangatte refugee centre, says Straw
LONDON: Foreign Secretary Jack Straw denied claims in the British press Thursday that Britain and France had reached a deal to close a refugee camp in northern France that is a source of bilateral tension.London has pressured Paris to shut down or move the overcrowded Sangatte camp, whose location near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel has fed a wave of illegal immigration into Britain.
The Daily Telegraph, quoting informed reports circulating in parliament, said the “British and French governments are involved in talks on closing the Sangatte refugee camp in return for Britain accepting hundreds of asylum seekers who are attempting to get into the country illegally through the Channel Tunnel.” Straw, however, told BBC radio Thursday, “We do not recognise this scenario.” He added that the French government had made no decision either.
“UK must take migrants to shut Sangatte,” headlined The Times, quoting a British government source who said: “We cannot rule out a proportion of the refugees coming here.”French government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope told the Telegraph only that, “discussions are underway,” but “for now, no decision has been taken.”
Straw also called for tighter security measures to be set up at the French end of the tunnel to prevent would-be asylum seekers from gaining access.
Britain reiterated calls for the camp to be closed on May 15, after the arrest of 11 immigrants who had crossed the Channel on a freight train.
Straw is set to meet his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in June and July to discuss the Sangatte situation. —AFP