"New Sangatte" - Cat out of the Bag (March 18th 2009)
French Immigration Minister Eric Besson has "let the cat out of the bag" during his comments on proposals from UK Minister Phil Woolas to build a "new detention centre" at Calais. That is the view expressed at the House of Commons this evening by Kent's North Thanet MP, Roger Gale.
Gale, who has been fiercely critical of both UK and French Government policies in relation to immigration and asylum seekers, said:
"From the French Minister's comments it is clear, first, that the UK Borders and Immigration Minister had not prepared the ground with the French before seeking to grab headlines with a "tough talking" proposal for a new detention. As a result the French have thrown the UK Minister's remarks straight back in his face, describing the Woolas plan as "a new Sangatte".
While Sarkozy, as Immigration Minister, was prepared to close the asylum camp at Sangatte and to bulldoze it, Sarkozy in the top job seems curiously unwilling to take action to either grant immigrants asylum in France or to adopt the alternative position and return them to their country of origin.
But it is Bessonís statement that is most revealing. He is quoted as saying that it would be "ridiculous and indeed illegal to start imprisoning would-be immigrants to the United Kingdom". In other words, the French Government is prepared to treat immigrants who should be claiming asylum in France as "in transit" to the UK - which is precisely what I have been saying to anyone prepared to listen for some time! Now that this cat is out of the bag it is surely time for the Home Office and the Foreign Office to demand not only of the French but of other European States that they take their responsibility for immigrants and asylum seekers within their own borders instead of turning a blind eye and trying to pass the problem on to the United Kingdom."