The Press Association reports that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are holding an Anglo-French summit to discuss plans for a crackdown on illegal cross-Channel immigration.
The British Premier hopes the meeting, in the French town of Evian-les-Bains, will secure a deal for the UK to help with detection technology to counter people smuggling, sources said.
The long standing immigration issue was again in the spotlight last week when the United Nations refugee agency opened an office in Calais to deal with around 1,600 migrants trying to get to the UK.
It is trying to persuade the “undocumented aliens” – many of them trafficked children living in squalid camps on the outskirts of the port – that they will be sent home if they are caught illegally in this country and should claim asylum in France if they are genuinely fleeing persecution.
Until now, the French have been almost oblivious to the problem, as everyone is fully aware that the migrants are ‘passing through’ on their way to the UK, rather than seeking refuge in France.
The French authorities were so lax, effectively passing the buck on to Britain, that the UK Border Agency were forced to post its own immigration teams in Calais to check lorries for stowaways attempting to get their feet on British soil.
Although the problem is nothing like on the scale of the estimated 68,000 who passed through the controversial Sangatte reception (which was only closed following strong protestc from the British Government) centre several years ago, it has led to serious concerns that the opening could attract even more desperate migrants.
It is estimated that between 600,000 and 1,000,000 people are illegally in the UK of which around 440,000 are thought to be in London.
Successive Ministers have rejected calls for any form of amnesty and the current Border and Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, had said that London Mayor Boris Johnson’s call for an amnesty was “naive” and would lead to more trafficking of people.
Leading think tank, ippr, said it would it would take at least 20 years to find and remove half a million illegal immigrants.
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