Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
WEDNESDAY 10 JULY 2002
HE M DANIEL
M DENIS DOUTÉ
60. Are you saying then, your Excellency, that
if the British Government requested it your Government would agree
to asylum claims being considered in France? Are you quite clear
(M Bernard) I think that the British Government, if
we were to do such a thing, might run the risk of establishing
a constant flow of people coming to the desk and asking for immigration
61. Is that what the British Government have
said to you or is that what you think might happen?
(M Bernard) That is what I imagine.
62. You are imagining the problem but has a
request been made to you?
(M Bernard) No, not to my knowledge.
63. It has not been made at this point?
(M Bernard) No. This idea has been floated around
but it was not decided in any way.
64. Do you feel that the French Government has
responsibility for the situation of stopping the flow of transport
and trades through the Channel Tunnel?
(M Bernard) I think, madam, that the French Government
makes its best efforts to establish freedom of movement, but at
the same time the French Government is particularly eager to come
to the assistance of the British Government in preventing clandestine
immigrants from reaching British shores.
65. What are you proposing to do in that case?
(M Bernard) As madam Chairman said, the issue would
be to try to solve the existing problem and the idea of a closure
of Sandgate is a common objective that we have with the British
Government, provided that a certain number of conditions are met
and in particular that the pull factors that attract so many clandestines
to Britain are got rid of by the British Government.
66. What are those conditions to be met before
(M Bernard) The fact of the attractiveness of Britain
is probably the major problem. As long as it is attractive people
will flock, coming from all parts of the world, mostly for the
time being from Afghanistan and Kurdestan in Iraq, and they will
continue to flock and to come as long as they have the idea that
conditions are easier in Britain and that it is easier to establish
oneself in Britain than elsewhere. At some stage we will have
to find at European level, and we are already doing it with the
British Government, a way to stop these flows coming from outside.
France is never the first country to be afflicted by this problem.
They always come from elsewhere in the European Union.
67. Are you saying then that the conditions
you require before you consider closure are for the perception
of asylum seekers and what would happen to them in the UK to be
changed? It seems a rather tall order.
(M Bernard) No. We have a common objective with the
British Government to close down Sandgate because it is probably
more painful for the Calais is than it is for anybody else. Even
if we were to close Sandgate under satisfactory conditions, nevertheless
we would have to deal with the problem on a much larger scale,
which is the problem of people coming into the European Union
and coming to France and other countries.
68. Are the people of the Pas de Calais happy
with this timetable?
(M Bernard) The people of Pas de Calais, madam, just
dream that the problem will be solved.
69. What encouragement do they get from the
French Government to believe that the dream will in fact get a
solution before very long?
(M Bernard) Suppose for one minute that we were to
close Sandgate tomorrow morning. There are 1,300 people. Where
do they go? They will go, as they did before Sandgate was opened,
into the city of Calais, settling down anywhere, creating a problem
of security, a problem of law and order to a population that is
particularly annoyed by that. But at the same time, madam, these
people who are in Sandgate, are people that have to be respected.
They are human beings that have to be treated humanely. This is
why, instead of having them flocking in the streets and creating
disorder, it is better that they can look after their children
in a proper manner in Sandgate centre. If we can succeed in finding
a solution for them then we have that one dream, which is to close
70. Your Excellency has emphasised that many
of these people have come from regions well outside the European
community and in fact France is not their first border. Has the
French Government considered strengthening its border and re-imposing
controls between itself and other European countries?
(M Bernard) Madam, we are within Schengen and we consider
things in the Schengen fashion. We are eager to reinforce the
external boundaries but we have no intention of contravening the
71. Ambassador, can you tell us how many asylum
seekers who have been involved in attempts to get on to trains,
and we are aware that there has been a considerable amount of
criminal activity in terms of damage to property and so forth,
have been prosecuted?
(M Bernard) To my knowledge the figure of those who
have been arrested by the police for a while and interrogated
grew in a very enormous manner from 20,000 in 1999 to 45,000 in
2000 (my figures are rough) and 80,000 in 2001, and we will probably
have 120,000 people stopped by the police and interrogated. That
does not mean that it is that many people because the same people
are stopped several times, four times in general.
72. How many have you actually taken to court
and prosecuted for criminal damage?
(M Bernard) We have to start with those who are helping
to smuggle in the people.
73. I am thinking about those involved in the
direct assaults on Fréthun to get on to trains and previously
at Coquelles where the individual asylum seekers have been cutting
down fences, breaking and entering complexes. I appreciate that
there are those who are involved in organised crime across Europe
to do that but in a sense that is a separate issue to the actual
on the ground situation.
(M Bernard) I was simply starting by the judicial
affairs that have been carried out in this matter. It includes
the people who are arrested. It includes also the people who are
smuggling them. I think it is about 700 of those who were arrested.
As for the people who are immigrants who are arrested, they are
indicted only if their illegal presence here is accompanied by
illegal activity. I am sorry, I will send it to you tomorrow but
I do not have the exact figure.
Chairman: We would be very grateful, your Excellency,
if you could send us a note on the number of people actually charged
for criminal damage at Fréthun.
74. Can you assure us, your Excellency, that
your authorities do actually prosecute those who are found committing
criminal acts, cutting their way into these complexes, rather
than simply taking them back to Sandgate?
(M Bernard) As long as they have not done anything
criminal they are taken back to Sandgate, but if they have in
one way or another committed something illegal this is sent to
the Procureur de Boulogne, who is the man in charge and who has,
as you may imagine, a large number of files in front of him.
75. M Douté, could I ask you how much
money have you received from the French Government to help pay
for the additional protection at Fréthun?
(M Douté) As I mentioned, the amount of works
have been 1.5million euros for the first phase and 7.5 million
for the current ongoing effort, so these are all paid outside
SNCF, as I mentioned, by RFF. Otherwise, of course, the involvement
of the French Government has been the security forces which have
been provided ever since the trouble started.
76. Could I ask you for a definition of those?
Perhaps His Excellency will tell me. Are these gendarmes or are
they SAIS? What is the status of the people protecting the area?
(M Bernard) They are gendarmes, madam Chairman, but
they are also, apart from gendarmes, the security from SNCF and
they are also from private security companies who are assisting
77. SNCFhow far have you really lost
money as a result of these problems?
(M Douté) Our expenses are various. Of course,
there are first of all revenue losses from what is lost in terms
of traffic, so this is the largest amount.
78. Is that a significant part of your total
(M Douté) The traffic with Great Britain is
about 2% of our overall traffic. Of course, if we were considering
this like any normal business, we would have stopped for a long
time doing any business through the tunnel. To give you an idea,
our overall revenue is between 35 million and 40 million euros
in a normal year. For this year it will be less. On the other
side, just to provide you with the figure, what we are paying
to Eurotunnel in terms of toll and so on and their expenses, that
part only is 44 million euros, and of course we have to pay for
this specific traffic, all the security forces, our own people
and the contracts we have with private security companies. We
have to maintain the works which have been done, and of course
we have damage to our goods, we have damage to our passenger traffic.
To give you an idea, in just April there were 450 passenger trains
which were stopped because of the presence of immigrants and overall
20 minutes per train were lost. All these are costs, most of which
are hidden and they are on top of the revenue losses and other
79. And there is also some damage to some of
your staff. Some people have been injured.
(M Douté) Yes, that is right.