- Title: EUROPE-MIGRANTS/CALAIS Sceptical Calais migrant camp awaits ministers' visit
- Date: 19th August 2015
- Summary: MIGRANTS IN CAMP MIGRANT WITH LORRY PASSING BEHIND MIGRANTS WALKING MIGRANTS WATCHING LORRY DRIVE AWAY WITH SIGN SAYING (French): "CALAIS"
- Embargoed: 3rd September 2015 13:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA1334O3EVO86CF65QM17MCDNAU
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Migrants and charities remained sceptical on Wednesday (August 19) that an impending visit to Calais by British and French ministers could do much to solve the town's pressing refugee crisis.
The British and French interior ministers are expected on Friday (August 21) in the French coastal town currently hosting thousands of migrants, where they will inspect security provisions in a show of solidarity and unveil a joint plan of action.
But in the squalid camp, home to some 3,000 refugees hoping to cross the 20 miles of the English Channel separating France and Britain, news of the visit did not inspire much confidence.
Whilst there has been no official indication of the content of the Franco-British agreement, media reports speculate that it will contain further security provisions, measures to tackle people smuggling and some humanitarian support.
Francois Guennoc is one of the co-founders of the charity Migrants' Shelter ("L'Auberge des Migrants") which provides supplies and support for those who find themselves in what the French press have dubbed "the Jungle" and he said he's been "disappointed" by the reports.
"We're at an impasse and we don't see how this plan could allow us out of the impasse. Clearly if the government makes some concrete gestures, like shelters in the camp, increases the size of the Jules Ferry day centre, more water points, then we'll take them, the refugees will take them, anything's welcome, but that's not what's going to solve the problem," he told Reuters TV.
For him the real problem is the length of time it takes to process asylum applications, and many can expect to wait up to eight months with no choice but to stick around in the Jungle while the winter comes.
Eurotunnel says that increased security, including seven and a half extra police companies since June, has brought successful entries into its site down from a height of up to 2,000 a night at the end of July to the current level of between 100 and 200.
A representative from union UNSA-Police, Ludovic Hochart, said the current level of staffing had to be increased, as civil servants in temporary posts prepared to return to their day jobs.
"I think we need to carry on with this effort because we can see it's having an impact and as I said for September we're looking at losing a further 120 civil servants currently in Calais who are in charge of security on the approaches to the tunnel," he said.
Back in the camp, news of the ministerial visit had not trickled down to many of the migrants fighting for the prize of a successful passage to England where many have family connections and at least a rudimentary grasp of the language.
Ahemed originally comes not far from Nyala in Sudan, saying many like him wanted simply to finish their studies in peace.
"I hope if the British government can favour some of the migrants who think they want to come to continue their education at a good level they should make a favour," he said.
His friend called himself "Obama", named after the U.S. president after a stint in a Libyan prison where he was the only black man, and said he had always dreamed of going to Britain.
"I don't know when I'm going to England, one year, two years, ten years, 100 years I don't know, my life, I don't know when I'm going to England," he said, adding he was sure he would get there eventually.
British Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to meet French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in Calais on Thursday (August 20).
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