Blockade Calais, mayor urges townsfolk as anger rises at migrant crisis

Calais police

French police officers stand near migrants who clashed during a distribution of food in Calais. Photograph: Francois Lo Presti/AFP/Getty Images

Lack of food and shelter fuels ever more desperate attempts to reach UK and sparks call for Cameron to act

(SOURCE)  The mayor of Calais threatened to use the town’s population as a human barricade to blockade its port on Thursday night, as paramilitary police were drafted from around France in a bid to prevent increasingly desperate attempts from a growing number of migrants attempting to get to the UK.

As dusk fell on a patch of scrubland a five-minute walk from the stately town hall of Calais, hundreds of migrants gathered at a soup kitchen, and said that despite the heavy police presence they would continue in their attempts to get across the Channel.

“Sometimes I try one time in the day, sometimes three, but I try every day,” said Saqi Raja, a 24-year-old from Pakistan, who had been in Calais for two months. “It is very bad here. The police have beaten me up – but I keep on trying.”

As the meals ran out, a snaking line of migrants – mainly men, but also including several young boys – began to make their way back towards the centre of town and the port.

Politicians and local charities warned on Thursday that the number of migrants attempting to reach the UK was growing every day, and said there was a new desperation among them.

That was evident on Wednesday when a group of close to 100 migrants pushed through security barriers at the port and attempted to storm a tourist ferry bound for Dover. A further group of at least 150 migrants attempted a similar feat hours later, but were stopped by police.

Calais encampment

A makeshift encampment of migrants near the Calais ferry port. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

At a tense press conference at the town hall on Thursday the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, threatened to call on the people of the town to become a human barricade, and block the port until further action was taken by the British government.

“My proposal [to block the port] still remains. We are sick of not being listened to,” she said. “There needs to be a realisation that the people of Calais have suffered in this situation for 12 years. Until now we have had no help, no word of compassion and no support … It is time for the UK government to take responsibility.”

She acknowledged that blockading the port would be illegal, but said: “Do you think it is legal and fair to leave us in this situation?”

Asked what immediate action she wanted from the British government, she said: “We want the British government to send a message that migrants from Calais will not be welcomed.”

She also demanded financial compensation from Westminster, called for the UK border to be placed in Britain rather than Calais and called for David Cameron to visit the town.

On Thursday night François Guennoc, from the charity Immigrant’s Inn (Auberge des Migrants) was attempting to meet the needs of the hundreds of migrants queuing for food. “More and more migrants are coming and sometimes we don’t have enough food to give them. We are having to reduce the portions and really sometimes it is not enough to feed one person,” he said. “The situation is very difficult here. There are not enough places to shelter. People do not feel safe – they feel afraid.”

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