Calais mayor condemns 'mad' decision to build new centre for migrants

Queuing up for the Jungle Camp 2.0: Calais mayor condemns ‘mad’ decision to build new centre for migrants trying to reach Britain, saying it will encourage more to the area

  • Shelter set up in a warehouse last night gives 300 migrants a place to sleep
  • The shelter could be used before migrants continue their efforts to reach the UK 
  • But Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart has strongly criticised the measure
  • She warned that it risked becoming the ‘Jungle Mark II’ in a reference to the infamous Jungle camp which was home to up to 10,000 migrants 

A new shelter which has been set up in Calais by the French government to give migrants food and a roof over their heads before their final push to reach Britain has been slammed as ‘madness’ by the mayor of the port town.

The shelter, which opened in a warehouse last night, is giving up to 300 migrants somewhere to sleep and eat a meal before potentially continuing their efforts to reach the UK.

But Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart has strongly criticised the measure which aims to reduce the number of migrants sleeping rough in her town.

Pictured: A Group Of Migrants Wait At The New Calais Migrant Centre. The First Residents Were Seen Entering The Shelter on November 4, 2021. The shelter, which opened in a warehouse last night, is giving up to 300 migrants somewhere to sleep and eat a meal before potentially continuing their efforts to reach the UK

She warned that it risked becoming the ‘Jungle Mark II’ in a reference to the infamous Jungle camp which was home to up to 10,000 migrants on wasteland on the outskirts of Calais before it was forcibly closed down in October 2016.

Last night bus-loads of migrants could be seen entering the sprawling warehouse to take advantage of the new facility which was set up by the French authorities.

Clutching their meagre possessions, and wrapped up in thick coats and scarves against driving wind and rain, the new residents were accepted into the shelter ten at a time.

A crowd of around 100 migrants were seen queuing up outside the shelter this morning hoping to get one of the highly sought-after beds.

A French police source told MailOnline: ‘The migrant shelter opened for the first time last night.

‘Within an hour all of the 300 beds were taken. This morning we already have a queue of dozens of others who want a place. They will be offered a bed at other shelters in the region.’

Last night bus-loads of migrants (pictured) could be seen entering the sprawling warehouse to take advantage of the new facility which was set up by the French authorities

The new centre is aimed at clamping down on the growing number of migrants living on the streets and in makeshift tented camps around Calais as they desperately try to find a place on a boat or a lorry crossing the Channel.

Mrs Bouchart – who describes the UK as ‘El Dorado’ for illegal immigrants – said the new centre would merely attract more migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East to her town and to attempt the dangerous crossing to Britain.

She said: ‘It is out of the question that this shelter should go ahead. It’s total madness.

‘The opening of this shelter will become a rallying post, a new camp, a new Jungle. At first there will be 300 migrants, then 600, then 1,500 and so on.

‘We want nothing to do with this shelter and are not responsible for the consequences. Calais Town Hall is totally opposed to this project.’

A source told MailOnline: ‘It’s crazy. The French have built a centre for migrants to rest and re-fuel after a long journey for their final push to reach the UK.’

Pictured: Migrants wait outside the shelter. The new centre is aimed at clamping down on the growing number of migrants living on the streets and in makeshift tented camps around Calais

Pictured: A graph showing the number of migrants crossing the channel on small boats in 2019 (yellow), 2020 (orange) and 2021 (red)

Migrants who are detained by French police in the Calais area are now being offered places in the shelter where they are given a hot meal and a warm bed for the night.

The plan is that they will then be ‘directed’ the next day to other migrant centres away from Calais where they can lodge a claim for asylum in France. Those who accept France’s offer to assess their asylum claim are taken away in buses. But the state-provided transport was practically empty when they left the shelter today.

Only a handful of migrants could be seen sitting at the back of one bus – in contrast to the packed vehicles that had arrived the night before. Other residents could be seen walking out of the centre and back into Calais.

Migrants arrested by French police after being discovered in the back of lorries or on boats attempting to cross the Channel are currently given an expulsion order to leave the Calais area after being detained.

But few adhere to the eviction demands and continue their quest to start a new life in Britain.

France’s Immigration and Integration Minister Didier Leschi who suggested the plan for the new shelter, said: ‘The shelter will be opened every night to cater for migrants who have been arrested.

Pictured: One of the buses are seen through a chain-link fence outside the warehouse shelter on Thursday evening

Migrants who are detained by French police in Calais (pictured on a map) are now being offered places in the shelter where they are given a hot meal and a warm bed for the night

‘The following day they will be directed to reception centres away from Calais.’

This week it was revealed that 20,000 migrants had made it across the Channel so far this year with the vast majority paying people smugglers to make the perilous voyage on open boats.

Humanitarian groups estimated in the summer that around 2,000 people, including at least 300 unaccompanied children, were staying in and around encampments in the Calais area.

The hundreds that currently sleep rough in abandoned buildings, under bridges, and in woods and fields around the port are mostly young men, but there are also women and children.

As darkness falls, many of those who cannot afford to pay people smugglers, try their luck at clambering onto lorries or trying to sneak on to ferries or trains which are bound for Britain

Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart has strongly criticised the opening of the shelter which aims to reduce the number of migrants sleeping rough in her town. Pictured: People queue outside the shelter on Thursday

The vast majority of attempts fail, but enough people get through to encourage those left behind in Calais to keep on trying.

The original Jungle camp on a 1.5 square mile area of scrubland was finally demolished by the French authorities five-years-ago after becoming a symbol of Europe’s migration crisis.

French police have been continuing to dismantle threadbare camps which have sprung up in the area ever since.

Asylum seeker support groups have complained about the authorities hindering attempts to help migrants by installing large rocks and boulders at some of the regular distribution points to prevent aid vans parking.

Brexit is also said have slowed down arrivals of shipments of clothing and other essential items, making the lives of migrants encamped in Calais even more miserable. 

Meanwhile, at least one person drowned on the French side of the Channel amid stormy conditions yesterday, a government source said.

On Wednesday one man died and another was declared missing, presumed drowned, after a dinghy capsized off Dunkirk.

Pictured: Migrants are seen queuing against a fence outside the shelter on Thursday

The tragedies – driven by people-trafficking gangs – came in the week it was confirmed 20,000 migrants had crossed the Channel since the start of the year. Last year 8,410 arrived. 

Mayor Bouchart, a member of the conservative Republicans party, has blamed Britain for the crisis. She said: ‘We know that a migrant who arrives in England is taken care of. They are housed, they have an income.

‘For them, England remains an El Dorado but the British Government does not have the courage to review its legislation in the field.’ 

Britain’s soft touch had created ‘a pull factor’ that has inflicted ‘trauma’ on Calais residents for more than 20 years, Miss Bouchart told radio station RTL.

She called on French president Emmanuel Macron to engage in ‘strong-arm tactics’ with Britain.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has authorised measures to turn around migrant boats, but they have yet to be deployed. 

Mr Macron’s government has insisted this would breach international maritime law, and France would refuse to accept vessels turned back in this way, it is understood.

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