Note of Visit to Calais and SangatteTuesday
25 June 2002
I. Mr Bill Dix, Deputy Managing Director,
Eurotunnel and Managing Director, Shuttle Services
1. Mr Dix said that at the beginning of 2001
there were daily invasions of the terminals, with 60-70 asylum-seekers
arriving each day, mainly on the freight trains. In the whole
of 2001 54,000 people "attacked" the terminal and 5,000
got through. Ten people had died in the attempt. With advice from
Sir Roger Wheeler, the former Chief of the General Staff, Eurotunnel
had put in place major improvements in security, notably the installation
of 30 kms of high security fencing and 350 additional security
guards. The capital cost of the fencing and CCTV cameras was £3m
and the annual cost of the additional security guards £3m+.
2. The freight terminal at Fréthun was
now the main focus of attention. The freight trains were vulnerable
because they had to change locomotives at Fréthun; the
car transporters, which were open, were particularly easy to target.
At present only about three freight trains were running each day
out of a normal complement of 25. SNCF were in the process of
putting in place the sort of measures that Eurotunnel had taken,
but it was said that the work would not be completed until the
end of November.
3. Mr Dix made a number of suggestions for addressing
the problems caused by Sangatte, which was attracting between
60 and 70 new arrivals each day:
- break up Sangatte into three or
four smaller centres and move them further away from the terminals
- improve security
- allow asylum-seekers to apply in Sangatte
for asylum in the UK
- re-introduce the "gentlemen's agreement"
that operated between France and the UK in 1995-1996
- put British police in France (on the same basis
that Eurotunnel paid for services from the Kent police in the
II. M. Cyrille Schott, Préfet for Pas-de
4. M. Schott, who was supported by members of
the Gendarmerie, the Police and other state agencies, emphasised
at the outset that France was doing all it could to stop the asylum-seekers
going to the UK, but it was not possible to send many of them
back to their own countries (90 per cent came from Afghanistan
and Iraq) and with 30 million passengers crossing the Channel
each year it was impossible to stop all of them.
5. There were three separate sites that were
targeted by the asylum-seekers: industrial estates, but security
had been tightened up considerably
Calais Port: this was now well protected as a
result of the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce, and extra police
had also been drafted in. The main problems were outside the Eurotunnel
terminal: this was a difficult site to protect as it was surrounded
by the Port: on the motorways and with trains being stopped at
St Omer and Dunkirk the freight terminal at Fréthun, which
was managed by SNCF: a major upgrade of security was in hand,
at a cost of ?m7.5. The fencing would be finished by the end
of July and a surveillance camera system installed by the autumn.
Staffing had been increased and the Préfet had obtained
80 additional gendarmes, to be followed by a further 30.
6. The CRS and the police were deployed at the
Eurotunnel terminal and Calais Port in addition to 300 border
police, 300 customs officers (and 200 police in Calais itself).
7. Despite all these measures the pressure was
increasing as shown by the rising number of arrests:
|Year||No. of arrests
|2002 (first six months)||56,000
368 had been arrested the previous night.
8. Priority was given to targeting the "passeurs"
(people-smugglers). So far in 2002 130 had been arrested (of whom
one third were British) and severely dealt with. There had been
two murders among the passeurs. The Centre at Sangatte,
was not itself the problem but "l'expression du problème".
It had opened in 1999 mainly to accommodate Kosovan asylum seekers,
but since then the population had changed significantly. The population
varied from 1,100 to 1,500. Since the beginning of the year 350
had been sent back to "safe" countries. The closure
of Sangatte was an objective but not an immediate option until
the underlying causes of its existence had been addressed, which
required the harmonisation of asylum laws with other EU countries.
At present the United Kingdom was simply too attractive, providing
hotel accommodation, money and work opportunities for asylum seekers.
France did not give asylum seekers money, which was probably the
most significant difference between the British and French systems.
Fewer than five per cent of those picked up by the police applied
for asylum in France. They knew that once they had applied for
asylum in France they could not apply in the United Kingdom. Some
did so only because they did not have the money for the crossing.
9. The French Government was taking action on
a number of fronts:
- putting pressure on SNCF to improve
security at Fréthun
- improving security at Arras and in the nearby
- taking action against the passeurs
- asking SNCF to limit the period during which
they sent freight trains through the Tunnel, initially from 7
p.m to 3 a.m. and then from 2 p.m. to 3 a.m.
10. But action was also needed on the British
- increasing the presence of the UK
Immigration Service, of whom at present there were only 134
- reacting more strongly to intelligence about
passeurs (co-operation between the police was good and improving,
but on occasion the French had been disappointed that the British
had not taken stronger action on the information they had given
- more co-operation between prosecutors.
III. Visit to the Centre
The Sub-Committee was accompanied by the Director
of the Centre, M. Michel Derr and his assistant.
11. Noteworthy points arising from the briefing
and the visit itself included the following:
- the population of the Centre was
1,200. The Director would like to reduce it to 900
- there were about 50-60 children under 12 in the
- since September 2001 the average age had reduced
- there were 85 paid employees at the Centre
- the services provided were very basic
- infection (particularly scabies) was a problem;
the medical facilities were very limited
- accommodation took the form of dormitories (in
portakabins) or tents (without heating or lighting)
- all the food was brought in
- most residents arrived by train (invariably accompanied
by passeurs) and walked (or sometimes took a taxi) to the
- in 2002 there had been 56,000 arrests; some were
arrested as many as 20 times
- there was a heavy police presence at the Centre
- there was a good deal of tension between the
- the authorities informed the police of any passeurs
they identified (many of them Kurdish).
12. The Sub-Committee also had separate discussions
with M. Derr and Mr Smaïn Laacher, a sociologist working
at the Centre. M. Derr emphasised that Sangatte was still a temporary
Centre. When asked for his solution to the problems that had given
rise to the establishment of the Centre, he said that there was
a tendency to criminalise immigrants. If everyone arriving in
the Schengen area was given a "permis de voyage"
this would enable them to travel freely (and for example stay
in hotels) without resorting to the smugglers.
13. M. Laacher described the main findings of
his researcha summary is contained in Appendix 6. He explained
that EU funding had been obtained for further research over a
period of three years, looking at countries of origin and exchange
of experience between Member States.
14. M. Laacher said that the solutions to the
problem were very difficult, complicated as they were by issues
of national sovereignty and identity. In present circumstances
the "passeurs" could not be eliminated; they
were a necessary evil. Asked about trafficking, M. Laacher said
that they had identified only two or three cases of young (under-age)
women being brought in for prostitution.
IV. Lunch with Elected Representatives
15. Those attending the lunch included the Mayors
of Bonningues, Coquelles and Fréthun, the Deputy Mayor
of Sangatte, a Conseillére Regionale for part of Calais
and Members of the Jeune Chambre Economique, who had been responsible
for organising the visit. The elected representatives each gave
a brief account of the problems caused for their Communities by
the existence of the Centre:
Fréthun (1,100 inhabitants) was
particularly affected by the problems of the SNCF terminal, which
had worsened at the end of 2001. Ninety extra police had been
drafted in and arrests were still running at a high rate:
There were also problems of petty crime and conflicts
between different ethnic groups. The Mayor accepted that it would
not be practical to close the Centre at the present time.
Coquelles was at the entrance
to the Tunnel. Problems were caused by residents of the Centre
in groups of up to 50 making their way to Calais and the freight
terminal along the streets, through the fields and on the autoroutes.
They were very noisy at night and in the morning, but as yet there
had been no impact on house prices.
Sangatte (4,129 inhabitants).
Residents of the Centre were in the village all the time; there
were fights between them and they disrupted the bus service (by
kneeling in prayer). Tourism had stopped altogether because the
10 kms of beach was unusable.
16. The Conseillère Régionale,
Mme Gest, a member of the Green Party, gave a different perspective.
She said that the "clandestins" were very polite
and did not cause any trouble. Part of the problem was that the
French authorities did not give them the opportunity to apply
for asylum in France, as had been discovered when an Arabic speaking
member of Parliament had gone to the Centre and explained that
they could apply for asylum in France. As a result the Green Party
had produced a leaflet in different languages explaining how to
apply for asylum. The Green Party was demanding a proper application
of the 1951 Convention, amendment of the Dublin Convention and
a change in procedure giving people the opportunity to apply for
asylum in Calais instead of requiring them to go to Arras.
17. The Mayor of Bonningues, (who was
also Chairman of the Inter-Communal Group) said that any local
measures would only displace the problem, which was one that the
United Kingdom and France should not have to deal with alone.
V. Transport undertakings
18. Representatives of the different cross-channel
undertakings each gave short presentations to the Committee.
19. Between January and June 2001 the number
of illegal immigrants targeting Eurotunnel had increased fivefold,
largely because the effect of carriers' liability legislation
had shifted the activity of would-be immigrants to Eurotunnel.
Regular cancellations had resulted. In July, August and September
10,000 people a month were stopped on the site many of whom would
have been trying repeatedly.
20. Following advice from Sir Roger Wheeler,
measures to strengthen security were put in place in three phases.
The main elements were:
Phase I (July 2001) A
zero tolerance plan was put in place, including:
- an increase in the number of security
agents from 100 to 370
- the erection of reinforced fences around the
platform areas (an area of seven hectares)
Phase II (July-December
- personnel training was introduced to discourage
- regular patrols by six teams were introduced
- surveillance cameras were installed
- lighting was improved
- a policy of immediate renewal of broken fences
- a CO2 detection system was put in
place and lorries scanned to detect human occupation
- under-lorry searches were initiated
- video surveillance equipment was installed to
pinpoint intruders on site
- sniffer-dog patrols were started
had now been achievedwas a return to normal operation.
Almost no-one was now reaching the platform area although about
22 a day were being found in lorries.
21. From October/November 2001 there had been
a transfer of "attacks" to freight trains. The SNCF
site had borne the brunt since security at Eurotunnel had been
improved. Freight trains normally parked for 1 to 1½ hours
before embarking to enable the locomotives to be changed. Safety
inspections took place. Controls include a carbon dioxide detection
system and exposure to sniffer dogs. But there were points on
the track before and after Calais where would-be illegal immigrants
could stop the trains by tampering with signalling equipment or
causing the brakes to engage. This also disrupted passenger lines.
22. The numbers arrested had risen from 763 in
September 2001 to 6412 in April 2002. There had been 3018 arrests
so far in June. Those caught were handed over to gendarmes and
returned to Sangatte or to the border police.
23. Trains had to return to base to be searched
if anyone was found on board. Because of the expense of the extra
security freight departures were being restricted to departures
between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. so that all resources could be concentrated
in this period. There were 80-90 personnel on site except for
Sunday-Monday when there was less traffic. Freight trains were
being processed in the local freight area to ease congestion in
the international freight area, and to be less visible and vulnerable
24. The number of trains was down to between
seven and ten a day from a potential of 15-16. Substantial loss
of revenue had resulted?18m to date in 2002. The objective
was that a 24 hour service should be resumed by the end of November.
25. The measures being put in place and due to
be finished by the end of July were:
- Double 3m fencing and barriers to
replace current fencinglength 4 ½ kms
- external fence and intrusion detection system
- vegetation and grass cut back for easy detection
- trouble spots on line and infra-red detection
system linked to control room at a cost of ?9m.
Calais Car Ferry Terminal (Calais Chamber of Commerce)
26. The Port of Calais and the Calais Chamber
of Commerce had been ordered by the French Government to tighten
up security and reinforce the Calais Car Ferry Terminal. A new
department, the SPS (Security, Prevention and Safety department)
with 55 employees, had been created two years ago to deal with
the matter. Efforts were concentrated on easy access spots and
37,700 would-be immigrants, known as "non-accédents",
had been handed to the police in a period of 22 months. However,
individual drivers had become less vigilant as a result of the
recent court ruling on carriers' liability
28. Additional measures being taken included:
- erection of 1,800 metres of new
- installation of a guarded, permit-only car park
- dog patrols of lorries
- a study of video surveillance equipment
The budget for these improvements was ?6.1m
for installation costs and an annual ?3m for operating expenses.
29. The Seafrance representative made the following
- The reason so many "non-accédents"
went to England was because housing was provided immediately and
£37 per week as well. They were economic migrants not asylum
seekers. In addition, there were no identity cards in the United
Kingdom as there were in France, and there was immediate provision
of schooling for the children.
- Everyone at Sangatte was living illegally in
French territory and was liable to a fine and a maximum of two
years in prison. But all were freed if caught, to attempt to cross
- It was absurd that the Port of Calais spent more
time on people who wanted to leave France than on those who wanted
to enter it. On average 50 passengers a month were prevented from
- Security was being put in place. The number of
"illegals" getting through this way had dropped.
- Coincidentally there was an increase in forged
documents turning up at the Port. Carriers could be fined if forgeries
were accepted that were "reasonably apparent". But it
was forbidden by French law to use infra-red detection systems.
So, many were getting through.
- There was a trend not to seek asylum on arrival
in the United Kingdom because of the likelihood of repatriation
but just to disappear into the black economy.