Calais migrant crisis: David Cameron accused of 'playing politics'

Migrants climb over a fence in Coquelles near Calais Image copyright PA

The Swedish justice and migration minister has accused David Cameron of "playing politics" with the migrant crisis in Calais.

Morgan Johansson said scenes in Calais had resulted from France and the UK not taking "responsibility" for accepting more asylum seekers.

Migrants in Calais are making nightly bids to cross the Channel.

The UK and French governments have announced they will bolster security around the Eurotunnel site in Calais.

Thousands of migrants have attempted to access the Eurotunnel terminal in the last week, and nine have died trying to access the tunnel since the start of June.

David Cameron has said the UK will not become a "safe haven" for migrants and warned illegal immigrants would be removed from the country.

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Media captionPolice forced a group back from the fence by using tear gas

'Divide people'

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend programme, Mr Johansson criticised Mr Cameron for using the word "illegal" about asylum seekers before they have been through the asylum process, and said they were seeking a basic human right.

Sweden allows anyone from Syria into the country, and last year Sweden accepted 30,000 asylum seekers compared to the UK's 10,000.

Mr Johansson called on the rest of the European Union, including the UK, to take more people in.

"I hear what he [Mr Cameron] is saying about illegal immigrants and about swarms and everything like that," he said.

"I think he's playing on strings - that he wants to actually divide people - and that's not a constructive way."

'Tunnel run'

Image copyright EPA

By BBC Europe reporter Gavin Lee in Calais

"It's gone midnight, we need more people, you need to come," says Mohammed, a Sudanese migrant standing by a metal fence that separates him from the railway line at the Channel tunnel freight terminal.

Preparing for the next "tunnel run", he is on his mobile, urging his cousin Tayeb to join him and the 200 other migrants who have broken through two layers of fencing already.

On the other side stand 20 riot police, waiting with tear gas.

Mohammed's plea is a telling indication of the wider split in the camp, between those who continue to risk their lives on the relentless quest to illegally stow away to the UK, and those who are exhausted, injured, or deterred by the increased security.

This weekend has been relatively calm, although French police have decided to stop releasing daily estimates of how many migrants are managing to break into the train terminal.

The fear is the continuous daily updates on security lapses only serve to fuel media reports and intensify the situation.

Calais migrant crisis

Impact on Kent council social services


the number of unaccompanied children seeking asylum that require care from Kent county council

  • 220 the equivalent number in March 2014

  • £5.5m funding shortfall according to the council

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Home Secretary Theresa May and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve urged other EU nations to help address the root causes of the "global migration crisis".

A raft of additional security measures planned for the French end of the Channel Tunnel, such as more CCTV surveillance, French police reinforcements and extra fencing, were agreed between Mr Cameron and French President Francois Hollande on Friday.

There have been significant delays in and around Kent and to cross-Channel services as a result of the situation in Calais.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Migrants in Calais are making nightly bids to cross the Channel

Immigration minister James Brokenshire earlier said rules could be changed to remove taxpayer support for more than 10,000 failed asylum-seekers living in the UK with their families.

Mr Brokenshire said he wanted to "send out a very clear message to those who seek to exploit the system that Britain is not a soft touch on asylum".

But charity The Refugee Council said it would be "morally reprehensible" to withdraw financial support "from some of the most vulnerable families in the UK, many of whom fear there is real risk of serious harm or persecution to them and their children if returned to their countries of origin".

Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said the government needed to put diplomatic pressure on the French government to assess migrants in Calais to determine if they had proper asylum seeker or refugee status or were in the country illegally.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron urged the government to treat asylum seekers "humanely", adding that the situation in Calais was "the tip of a humanitarian crisis".

UKIP MEP Mike Hookem criticised French and EU authorities, saying they had "totally lost control".

He added: "They are not interested in dealing with this at source and the British government's response in totally inadequate.

"Calais is like a balloon being squeezed. As you force the problem from one part, it bulges at another."

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