Mi­grants are main tar­get of French pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Tem­po­rary home to thou­sands of mi­grants try­ing to reach Bri­tain, the French city of Calais is a ma­jor bat­tle­field for pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates who are seiz­ing on fears of im­mi­gra­tion in cam­paign­ing for spring elec­tions — and fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of far-right leader Ma­rine Le Pen.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy, com­pet­ing in the con­ser­va­tive pri­mary in Novem­ber, is vis­it­ing Calais on Wednes­day, where he’s ex­pected to pledge to send mi­grants to a pro­cess­ing cen­ter in Bri­tain. Sarkozy will not go to the makeshift camp known as the jun­gle — in­stead he will meet se­cu­rity forces in charge of pro­tect­ing the ferry port and pre­vent­ing mi­grants from en­ter­ing the area.

Pres­i­den­tial con­tender Le Pen, well po­si­tioned in polls, has made fight­ing im­mi­gra­tion her long­stand­ing is­sue. The pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Front is cam­paign­ing to leave the EU and its visa-free zone, which would al­low France to re­in­state con­trols at na­tional bor­ders.

Sarkozy’s ri­vals for the con­ser­va­tive nom­i­na­tion have also vis­ited Calais, and Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande — who is ey­ing a re-elec­tion bid but has not for­mally de­clared his can­di­dacy — is con­sid­er­ing go­ing to Calais next week. The “jun­gle” and its in­hab­i­tants from Africa, the Mid­dle East and be­yond are a thorn in the side of the So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment, the sym­bol of its fail­ure to find ef­fec­tive re­sponses to Europe’s mi­grant cri­sis.

French con­ser­va­tive politi­cians ar­gue that Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties should be re­spon­si­ble for deal­ing with peo­ple who want to de­mand asy­lum in the U.K. The French want to rene­go­ti­ate a 2003 treaty

that ef­fec­tively puts the Bri­tish bor­der in Calais, leav­ing French au­thor­i­ties to po­lice mi­grants try­ing to cross the Chan­nel.

Sarkozy signed the treaty him­self as in­te­rior min­is­ter. Now he wants to main­tain bor­der con­trols on the French ter­ri­tory, be­cause the U.K. is not part of Europe’s free-travel zone, but also wants to send mi­grants to a cen­tre on the Bri­tish ter­ri­tory. The UK would be in charge of repa­tri­at­ing those who would not be granted a le­gal sta­tus, he has said.

His main chal­lenger in the con­ser­va­tive pri­mary, for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Alain Juppe, went to Calais in Jan­uary, in­clud­ing a walk in boots in the muddy slum camp.

“It’s not ac­cept­able to keep go­ing that way,” Juppe told Fran­ce­info ra­dio-tele­vi­sion net­work Tues­day. “We must dif­fer­en­ti­ate those who are here il­le­gally and send them back” to their coun­tries.

Le Pen paid her last visit to Calais two years ago, when she claimed she would send the mi­grants “back home even to coun­tries at war.”

Hol­lande’s gov­ern­ment promised to dis­man­tle the Calais camp by the end of the year and re­set­tle mi­grants in small cen­tres across France to ex­am­ine their sit­u­a­tions on a case-by-case ba­sis.

That plan has prompted ve­he­ment protests from many lo­cal con­ser­va­tive and far-right politi­cians, say­ing they fear the con­se­quences of the pres­ence of mi­grants in their towns.

The num­ber of mi­grants liv­ing in the “jun­gle” reached as many as 10,000 this month ac­cord­ing to aid groups op­er­at­ing in the camp, com­pared to 7,000 ac­cord­ing to a count by French au­thor­i­ties in Au­gust. There were a few hun­dred there in 2012 when Hol­lande was

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.