Home secretary stands firm as row over Calais border deal intensifies

Home secretary to visit Paris, with talks set to be dominated by border controls as Nicolas Sarkozy calls for the Jungle to be relocated to UK

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, is expected to tell her French counterpart on Tuesday that Britain is determined to retain the Le Touquet agreement that allows border checks to take place in Calais, despite growing controversy in France.

Rudd is expected to travel to Paris to meet Bernard Cazeneuve face-to-face for the first time. The pair had been due to discuss cooperation on terrorism and security following a series of deadly attacks in France, including in Nice.

But she is also expected to warn the French interior minister that proposals mooted by the regional president for hotspots to be set up, where migrants could apply for asylum in Britain directly from the Calais camps, are unacceptable to the UK government.

A Home Office source said: “This is a complete non-starter. The home secretary is crystal clear that people in need of protection should seek asylum in the first safe country they enter. That’s the long-held norm, and we are going to stick to it.”

The president of the region around Calais, Xavier Bertrand, called on Monday for the Le Touquet agreement to end, telling the BBC: “It’s not possible to keep people here without a new agreement between the two governments.”

Xavier Bertrand at the Jungle camp in Calais in February.
Xavier Bertrand at the Jungle camp in Calais in February. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president and a contender in next year’s election, also used a speech at the weekend to call for the so-called Jungle refugee camp in Calais to be relocated to the UK.

The Le Touquet agreement is a reciprocal arrangement that allows British border officials to check the documents of migrants seeking to enter Britain from the camps in Calais – and French officials to do the same in Dover.

But some French politicians claim it supports the existence of the Calais camp, in which thousands of refugees live in squalid conditions.

Sarkozy said: “I’m demanding the opening of a centre in Britain to deal with asylum seekers in Britain, so that Britain can do the work that concerns them. The Jungle should not be in Calais or anywhere else, because this is a republic and those with no rights to be here should return to their country.”

Home secretary Amber Rudd.
Home secretary Amber Rudd. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/PA

Sir Peter Ricketts, a former British ambassador to France, warned on Monday that if a rightwing candidate wins the presidential election next year, Britain “is going to have to deal with a pretty serious conversation with France about the Le Touquet agreement”.

He said the UK was unlikely to accept the hotspot idea – adopted by the EU to tackle the crisis of mass migration from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East to Greece and Italy – warning that it would attract many more people to Calais. “As soon as you suggest that, it becomes a huge magnet,” added Ricketts.

During the EU referendum campaign, it was suggested – including by the then prime minister, David Cameron – that leaving the EU could jeopardise the agreement.

In a speech in February, Cameron said: “Clearly the point that is being made here is that should we leave the EU then some of these other arrangements that we may have with other countries, for example the juxtaposed controls we have with France, could be called into question.”


Heather Stewart Political editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
UK to take small group of children from Calais refugee camp
French officials say Britain has agreed no ‘deal for larger-scale plan’ but will accept 20 unaccompanied minors this week

Jasper Jackson and agencies

16, Oct, 2016 @4:22 PM

Article image
UK to take hundreds more children from Calais, home secretary says
Amber Rudd tells MPs 800 claim links in Britain, but doubts are raised over councils’ capacity to take unaccompanied minors

Alan Travis, Lisa O'Carroll in Calais and Caroline Davies

24, Oct, 2016 @7:55 PM

Article image
UK and France restate commitment to border treaty after Calais talks
Amber Rudd and Bernard Cazeneuve say they will work together to strengthen security around ‘shared border’ in Calais

Alan Travis and Anushka Asthana in London, and Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

30, Aug, 2016 @2:23 PM

Article image
Alain Juppé calls for UK border to move from Calais to Kent
French presidential frontrunner says France should not be managing migrants on UK’s behalf and urges overhaul of Le Touquet agreement

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

20, Oct, 2016 @9:00 PM

Article image
Tory MPs urge Amber Rudd to do more to help child refugees in Calais
Ten MPs write to home secretary calling for safe accommodation to be found for lone children living in ‘wretched’ conditions

Amelia Gentleman

03, Oct, 2016 @1:30 PM

Article image
Dover MP warns against 'tit-for-tat' battles with France over border security
Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal, says France and the UK must work together

Peter Walker, Heather Stewart and Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

30, Aug, 2016 @11:14 AM

Article image
Calais child asylum seekers launch legal action against UK government
Thirty-six teenagers accuse home secretary of reneging on promise to bring vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children to Britain

Diane Taylor

28, Dec, 2016 @5:07 PM

Article image
France tells UK to speed up asylum applications of lone migrant children
Amber Rudd to meet French counterpart to discuss processing child refugees with links to Britain before camp is dismantled

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

10, Oct, 2016 @5:01 AM

Article image
French minister: Brexit would threaten Calais border arrangement
Economy minister suggests Paris could tear up treaty allowing UK police to operate in France, as Cameron meets Hollande

Patrick Wintour and Anushka Asthana

03, Mar, 2016 @9:53 AM

Article image
Q&A: what’s the real story behind recent UK refugee arrivals?
Britain takes in very few of the world’s asylum seekers and only a minority of them arrive by boat

Diane Taylor

10, Aug, 2020 @6:00 AM