The United Kingdom has announced plans to build a "big new wall" to prevent illegal immigrants from entering British territory. The wall would be built at the border port at Calais in France. Nearby there are camps of migrants from a number of countries who seek admission to the UK. Known as "The Jungle," the camp has been noted for several years for riots and occasional raids by French police. Of late, squatters have assaulted vehicles headed for the Chunnel that goes beneath the English Channel and leads to the UK. British nationals and others have been injured and frightened by a number of spectacular attacks by migrants. Migrants have sought to commandeer vehicles, including commercial trucks, in order to enter the UK.
The British minister of state for immigration, Robert Goodwill, told a hearing of the Home Affairs Committee of parliament that the new wall in Calais would bolster the already existing wall. “We’re going to start building this big new wall very soon,” Goodwill said. “We’ve done the fence, now we’re doing a wall.”
Shanties in "The Jungle" squatter camp in Calais.
Comparisons have been drawn between the proposed wall at Calais and the 2,000-mile wall proposed by Trump that would separate Mexico from the United States. However, the British wall would be much smaller.
The British are proposing a 13 foot tall barrier that would be constructed along both sides of a segment of road just over a half-mile in length. The wall should be completed by the end of the year.
Calais is a common point for illegal immigrants seeking to enter the UK. Calais lies at the narrowest point on the English Channel and it is where ferries take traffic back and forth between the UK and the Continent. It is also the access point for the Eurotunnel or Chunnel, which connects the UK to Europe via rail.
In 2003, France, Belgium and the U.K. established “juxtaposed controls.” In the arrangement, British immigration and customs officials conduct checks on passengers before they board trains or ferries headed for the UK. They are seeking to prevent anyone from entering the country who may wish to file an asylum application. Some French politicians are unhappy with the arrangement and want it abolished. So far, France has not been able to permanently dislodge the squatters on its side of the water. However, many Frenchmen are angry about the presence of the various squatters camps. In recent months, farmers have clogged the roads leading to the ferry crossing with their tractors in protest. Raids by police have only managed to temporarily displace the migrants. Also, there have been deadly pitched battles between rival gangs of migrants. South Asians and Africans are frequent rivals in the camps.
The British government has been pushing for stronger controls in Calais. A Home Office Committee report said the U.K. and France had invested in “additional fencing and floodlighting, CCTV, and infra-red detection technology.” The report said the situation remained a “threat to UK security.” The most common nationalities of migrants at Calais are Syrian, Eritrean, Sudanese, Iranian and Iraqi. About 5,000 to 7,000 migrant squatters live in camps surrounding the area.
The new wall may be evidence of new toughness in Britain ever since Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May came to power. May was Home Secretary under the previous government and she has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration. Goodwill told the committee that her government wants to reduce immigration to “tens of thousands” of people “as soon as we possibly can.”
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