Even as refugee groups are urging Britain to take in some of the asylum seekers, Johnson says those not in need of protection should return home.
Tags: Calais, Jungle, Eric Besson, David Blunkett, Nicolas Sarkozy, Sangatte
22nd September 2009: Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he was "delighted" over the impending closure of `Jungle’ — the immigrant camp in Calais; and described as wrong the reports that Britain could be "forced" to take illegal immigrants.
Even as the French police embarked upon an operation to clear and detain about 1,500 asylum seekers, Johnson reiterated genuine refugees should apply for asylum in the country where they entered the EU.
The officials had only recently vowed the camp, set up by migrants waiting to smuggle themselves into England, would be demolished by the end of the week. The French officials insist the jungle has become a haven for people-smuggling gangs and a no-go zone for local residents.
Refugee groups, on the other hand, have been urging Britain to take in some of the asylum seekers — an assertion whichhas not found Johnson’s favour.
He said they expected those not in need of protection to return home. The assertion came after talks in Brussels with French counterpart Eric Besson. Elaborating, Johnson said the UK has a robust system for dealing with both asylum seekers and immigration and provides protection to those who are genuinely in need.
He added both countries were committed to help genuine refugees, who should apply for protection in the first safe country they reach.
His enthusiasm was, however, not shared by charity groups. The chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service charity, Keith Best, said the shutting of the camp would not serve any purpose, and would only result in relocation of the problem to another part of Calais.
Culling an example from history, he said seven years ago former home secretary David Blunkett and then French minister of interior Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated themselves on the closure of the Red Cross centre at Sangatte. But the asylum seekers merely moved to Calais.
The UK-based Refugee Council has also asked Britain to accept some migrants, particularly children with family connections in the UK.
The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, too has urged the British government to consider the feasibility of granting entry to migrants already having large families in the UK.
Meanwhile, reports indicate there are about 300 migrants still in the camp, some of whom have put up banners urging the authorities concerned not to destroy the jungle as it was their home.