A senior French minister has called on Britain to pay more towards the cost of dealing with migrants trying to cross the Channel from Calais and to accept more refugees into the country.
Gérard Collomb, France’s interior minister, who will accompany President Emmanuel Macron on an official trip to the port city this week, said in an interview published on Sunday that he would push for more “concrete measures” regarding the UK financial contribution to the Touquet accords between the two countries.
The agreement, signed in 2003, effectively moved Britain’s border to the French side of the Channel, allowing UK immigration officers to carry out checks in Calais.
Asked by Le Parisien newspaper if he hoped to modify the Touquet accord, Collomb said: “I hope to succeed in getting an additional element to these agreements, and concrete measures regarding the covering of a certain number of costs by the British, as well as the receiving of a greater number of people, in terms of refugees and non-accompanied minors.”
Macron, Collomb and two other ministers will visit Calais on Tuesday, two days before a meeting with the British prime minister, Theresa May, in the UK.
Hundreds of migrants are still sleeping rough around the port more than a year after the sprawling “Jungle” camp was cleared in October 2016 when about 7,000 refugees were transferred elsewhere in France and invited to request asylum. Former prime minister David Cameron promised £17m from Britain to help fund the camp clearance.
Collomb said there were 400 migrants still living in the Calais area, and a further 50 at a second encampment up the coast at Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk. He said authorities had opened five reception centres in the region.
“There will always be migrants who want to go to England … those who are still sleeping outside don’t want to present themselves (to the centres) because they have no intention of asking for asylum in France,” Collomb said.
French government figures released last week suggested a record 100,000 people had made asylum requests in France last year and 85,000 people had been turned away at its borders.
Outlining new legislation on asylum and immigration to be examined by the council of ministers in February, Collomb said: “France must accept refugees, but she cannot accept all economic migrants … it’s impossible to give a dignified welcome to 185,000 people a year. That’s the size of a city like Rennes.”
During his successful election campaign last year, Macron vowed to renegotiate the Le Touquet agreement, saying France could no longer be Britain’s “coastguard”.