The centre was to open for UK-bound migrants this week
28th December 2009: A new ‘Sangatte’ welcome centre, scheduled to open for UK-bound migrants in Calais this week, has been attacked arsonists.
According to the available information, the prefabricated units, earmarked for use as a shower block close to the town’s ferry port, were set on fire. A section of Calais residents have all along expressed opposition to the building, even as the local authorities had claimed they had no option but to agree to the centre, which would be open to all migrants.
The attack has led to uncertainty on the issue of the center’s opening.
A spokesman for the Pas de Calais Green Party said the attack was ‘a deliberate act aimed at putting refugees into an even more dangerous position.
The approval for opening the centre on the Rue Jacques Prevert, next to the Marcel-Doret industrial estate had come earlier this month by the French administrative judges.
The centre, a few hundred yards from the ‘Jungle’, was being referred to as ‘Sangatte II’ after the former Red Cross centre, which attracted thousands of illegal migrants before it was demolished in 2002.
France’s immigration minister Eric Besson had given his word to rid Calais of the foreigners trying to get to the UK for either claiming asylum, or simply disappearing into the underground economy.
The Jungle, a fetid forest camp near Calais, was in September this year bulldozed by the French police; and illegal immigrants who had hoped to slip across the English Channel into Britain too were detained.
Subsequently, Calais council entered into an agreement with the charity Secours Catholique, Catholic Help, to provide facilities to migrants arriving in the town. The purported `U-turn’ was attacked by man, including Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green.
He was of the opinion that this would encourage more potential illegal immigrants to try to break our laws.