POLITICS

Calais Migrant Crisis Needs Diplomatic Solution, Yvette Cooper Tells David Cameron

31/07/2015 08:28 BST | Updated 31/07/2015 11:59 BST

David Cameron should be finding a diplomatic solution to the Calais crisis rather than 'demonising' migrants, Yvette Cooper has declared.

In a blog for The Huffington Post UK, the Shadow Home Secretary said that the Government had failed to get a grip on the problem at the French port and had instead resorted to 'incendiary' language about 'swarms' of foreigners.

The Prime Minister returned from his Asia trip today to chair a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee in Downing Street.

After a fourth night of migrant disturbances at Calais, Cameron announced that extra sniffer dogs and fencing will be sent to France and Ministry of Defence land will be used to ease congestion.

Speaking in No.10, Cameron said the situation was "unacceptable" and that he will be speaking to French president Francois Hollande later today.

Cameron said: "This is going to be a difficult issue right across the summer. I will have a team of senior ministers who will be working to deal with it, and we rule nothing out in taking action to deal with this very serious problem. We are absolutely on it. We know it needs more work."

The Permanent Secretary of the Home Office yesterday met leaders of Kent County Council and agreed it was a national not a local problem.

But with many of the migrants now known to be under-18, Ms Cooper said that "David Cameron's "swarm" language seems designed to escalate" the fears among some Britons that migrants were ready to storm the country.

"The crisis over Calais is getting worse not better. Yet far from setting out a serious plan to tackle the problem, the Prime Minister is inflaming the politics with incendiary and divisive language instead," she wrote.

The UK should be giving more help to Kent police and council chiefs to cope with the crisis, while "exercising maximum diplomatic pressure on the French Government" to deal with asylum claims faster, she claimed.

"It appears the Prime Minister has not even discussed the crisis with President Hollande this week. We need a major escalation of the diplomatic effort," Ms Cooper said.

"Under the last government David Blunkett persuaded France to close Sangatte through determined and intensive diplomacy.

"We need a similar diplomatic intervention now. David Cameron needs to make sure his focus on pre-referendum negotiations with other European countries are not distracting from solving this serious border problem."

Downing Street has insisted that the UK has been working closely with the French to offer them support rather than criticism during the crisis.

Mr Cameron this week blamed the chaos at Calais on a "swarm" of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and travelling through Europe.

Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman also accused the Prime Minister of trying to whip people up against the migrants saying: "He should remember he is talking about people, not insects".

Overnight, French security and police were again dispatched to prevent desperate migrants from gaining illegal access to the Channel Tunnel following a week of unrest.

Many of those trying to get across the Channel are teenagers who are either seeking work in the UK's black market or asylum from their war-torn home countries.

Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council said it had to deal with two big issues: sorting out the M20 congestion chaos caused by backed up lorries, and the under-age migrant influx.

"Local government has statutory duties to provide care for unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 and those numbers have escalated dramatically in the last four to five weeks," he said.

"That is connected with more migrants getting on to trains and in some cases boats and presenting at Folkestone or Dover seeking asylum. If they are under 18 we have to care and provide for them.

"About a year ago it was running at about 238 unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 that we were supporting. That is now well over 600 and rising day by day, week by week."

The council faces a shortfall of £5.5 million in care costs, he added.

The situation has threatened to bring the cross-Channel haulage industry to a halt, with long queues at border control points in England and France.

Upto to a hundred migrants roared as they steamed through police lines at a petrol station near the terminal to gain access to the tunnel.

French gendarmes and riot police at first were overwhelmed by the numbers coming at them but were able to gain control of the situation.

The Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee today told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was upto the French authorities to do more to send migrants back to their home countries.