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`Operation Calais was a publicity stunt’

Was carried out to mollify the British public

14th January 2010: Less than four months after the French police bulldozed a fetid forest camp near Calais and detained illegal immigrants who had hoped to slip across the English Channel into Britain, an aid worker has described the action as a “publicity stunt”.

Describing it as a ‘total failure’, senior Calais aid worker Vincent Lenoir said it was carried out to ‘placate the British public’.

The only purpose of the Jungle operation was to appease the public in England. It was an Anglo-French publicity stunt that had no effect at all, he has asserted.

Lenoir said 278 migrants were arrested, but now there were more than 400 illegal immigrants again massed on the Channel coast. To make the matters worse, dozens more were flooding into the northern French port daily with a hope to sneak illegally into Britain.

In an interview with French news magazine L’Express, he said immigration minister Eric Besson’s claim that destroying the Jungle would solve the problem was false.

As interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy made the same claim when he closed down Sangatte in 2002, and promised they would never have migrants on the Channel coast again. But estimates now suggest there are around 400 migrants in Calais.

Head of the Calais migrant charity Salam, he said other camps too were also springing up elsewhere, even in Belgium. Worst, gangs smuggling people too were back.

The operation, which took place in September last, saw the refugees, teen included, in jeans and sweatshirts being led away in single lines by the police. Some refugees even cried as the police loaded them on to buses. They insisted they wanted to stay in the camp, while voicing apprehensions about being returned to Afghanistan, other places.

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