French president expected to announce major review of immigration policies, and seek more money from the UK
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is to visit Calais, two days before a meeting with Theresa May to discuss the handling of the migrant crisis at the Channel port.
France has already warned it is seeking an overhaul of the 2003 Le Touquet agreement that shifted British border controls to the French side, and will be demanding “a certain number of improvements” from London. This is expected to include more money for dealing with undocumented migrants and a request that Britain take in more unaccompanied children.
Macron travelled to Calais on Tuesday with his interior and justice ministers as well as the public accounts minister and government spokesman.
He was expected to announce a major review of immigration and asylum policies to serve “those who we must protect” and remove those who “have no right to remain in France”. The French government is drawing up new immigration and asylum legislation to be discussed at the council of ministers – the EU’s main decision-making body – in February.
New laws will centre on five aims: controlling the flow of migrants, a better system to deal with asylum seekers, a speeding up of the asylum-seeking process, tightening laws to remove illegal migrants and measures to help the integration of refugees.
In a statement, the Elysée said: “The actions carried out locally at Calais illustrate the government’s approach to the question of asylum and immigration with the establishing of experimental solutions regarding the housing of migrants and helping them with the administrative process.”
France dealt with more than 100,000 asylum applications last year, a 17% increase on 2016. A further 85,000 people were reportedly stopped at French borders and refused entry to the country.
Since last September, France has set up reception centres for refugees and migrants. These are expected to be rolled out across the country in the coming months to offer shelter for 2,600 people, to add to the 80,000 places officials say already exist.
The Elysée said this was part of Macron’s determination to reduce the number of people sleeping rough, adding a priority was immediately housing any unaccompanied children.
Around 300 and 500 people are still living in and around Calais since French police dismantled the so-called Jungle camp, home to around 7,000 people, two years ago. The Elysée said its aim was to prevent the establishment of further camps.
Macron will also meet representatives from the 1,000-strong police and gendarmerie forces deployed at the Channel port to secure the border. Last October, human rights campaigners said police violence against migrants and refugees in Calais had reached “excessive and life-threatening” levels and expressed particular concern for unaccompanied children.
The Elysée statement said Macron will emphasise that authorities must act with “respect for the rights of migrants and good policing practice”.