French President Emmanuel Macron meets gendarme and police forces during his visit to Calais, France, January 16 2018. Picture: REUTERS
French President Emmanuel Macron meets gendarme and police forces during his visit to Calais, France, January 16 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Calais, France — French President Emmanuel Macron promised on Tuesday to stem the flow of migrants through the port of Calais, saying he understood the region’s concern about Brexit.

Addressing security forces in Calais, which has borne the brunt in France of an influx of migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East, Macron said he would bolster resources to ensure police had what they needed to maintain security while enforcing a fair migration policy.

"There will be no return to ‘the jungle’," said Macron, referring to the squalid tented encampment on the outskirts of Calais that once housed up to 8,000 migrants before it was closed in October 2016.

Macron earlier visited a migrant reception centre near Calais and spoke to refugees and local officials to hear about the pressures on the town and its surrounding Hauts-de-France region, one of the poorest in the country. His visit came ahead of a summit with Prime Minister Theresa May in Britain on Thursday, when the two are expected to deal with Brexit, migration and the 2003 Le Touquet accord, a reciprocal border agreement that has drawn criticism in France.

Macron is expected to push Britain to provide money and resources to tackle the migrant flow as many of those in Calais are ultimately trying to enter Britain, just 33km across the English Channel.

Under the Le Touquet treaty, Britain has its border in France and France runs border checks in Britain, a deal that French officials feel favours the UK. Both parties can withdraw
from the treaty, but that would mean a return to hard national borders, a move that would symbolically cut Britain off from the continent.

Pro-Brexit legislators of Britain’s governing Conservative Party have dismissed as "absurd" suggestions that London should pay more, saying Britain already provides extra security to France.

The issue is a sensitive one in France too as Calais and the region around it have benefited from close ties between Britain and France since the Channel Tunnel was built.

With unemployment in the area well above France’s average, the concern is that Brexit and tighter borders could have an increasingly negative effect on jobs and growth.

Macron acknowledged those worries, saying that he was aware of local fears over Britain’s exit from the EU in March 2019.

Macron plans to tighten French immigration rules with new legislation in coming weeks.

Reuters

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