POLITICS

Calais Migrant Crisis: David Cameron's Response Is 'Racist', Says Calais Deputy Mayor

31/07/2015 13:06 BST | Updated 31/07/2015 13:59 BST

David Cameron's response to the Calais migrant crisis has been "racist", the deputy mayor of the French city has said.

Speaking to Channel 5 News on Friday, Philippe Mignonet said it was unfair that the French authorities were always blamed for what was happening at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel.

On Friday morning the prime minister announced that extra sniffer dogs and fencing will be sent to France and Ministry of Defence land will be used to ease congestion on the British side of the Tunnel.

Cameron has been criticised for describing the number of people trying to make the journey to the United Kingdom as a "swarm". In a blog for The Huffington Post UK, the shadow home secretary and Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper said that the government had failed to get a grip on the problem at the French port and had instead resorted to "incendiary" language.

Mignonet said the word "swarm" was "proof of ignorance of the situation" in Britain. He added: "The racist words or extremist words – I just can’t accept them."

"It’s always the same: the French authorities are always blamed for what’s happening around the tunnel, around the port [and] in the city. If one day they have 10,000 [migrants] that will be a bloody disaster for them first and for the city afterwards. It’s already a disaster, an economic disaster for the city," he said.

Cameron returned to London from an official tour of Asia to chair a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee in Downing Street.

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

He 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."

Today's Cobra meeting, which lasted just over an hour, was attended by ministers including home secretary Theresa May, business secretary Sajid Javid and communities secretary Greg Clark and senior representatives from the military and police.

Downing Street said the government has decided new powers to tackle illegal working and abuse of the asylum system will be sped up – the new Immigration Bill will be introduced as soon as parliament returns.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said: “The PM reiterated that everything that can be done will be done to ensure the security of our borders and alleviate the disruption on both sides of the Channel.”

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, 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.

Calais


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.