Could France ditch the Le Touquet treaty? In other words could they move our border back to Dover from Calais?This question has been raised this week by the Prime Minister and matters greatly to the future of our community.
A decade ago our border was at Dover. This was a very difficult time for the town because migrants were able to get into Britain before they encountered effective border controls. Many migrants were housed in temporary accommodation in Dover.
This situation caused an incredible level of anger and frustration in the town. Across Britain concern rose - especially as there was a belief many migrants were making false asylum claims. The level of concern rose to such a pitch that the then Prime Minister Tony Blair was forced to take action.
First, migrants were provided with accommodation elsewhere in Britain. Secondly, an agreement was stuck with France that the UK border should move to Calais. Juxtaposed controls were set up so that UK and French border posts were maintained at both Dover and Calais. This means that UK border officers are able to stop migrants at Calais and hand them over to the French authorities.
As a result most of the migrants seeking to get to the UK are struck in France. There they consort with people traffickers and scheme ways to break into Britain. In almost every case their designs are thwarted by eagle eyed border officers, vigilant ships that patrol the English Channel and a crack squad of highly trained dogs that sniff out people hiding in the fruit and veg.
France does not have the same approach as us for accommodating migrants. So the migrants live outside in whatever shelter they can obtain. Generally this means tents and bivouacs. The area they live in Calais is wooded and for this reason is known as "The Jungle".
I have always been a passionate defender of the juxtaposed controls. Having our border at Calais ensures that we do not have the problems in Dover we had over a decade ago. So I have been highly critical of those who seek to axe this treaty - particularly the Mayor of Calais and UKIP, who have been campaigning to bring our border back to Dover.
The Prime Minister this week said that if we left the EU the French may end the juxtaposed controls and move our border back to Dover. Now I have always been highly sceptical of the European project, but I have to say he has a point. If we left the EU what incentive would there then be for France to help us with border security? And wouldn't it be an easy way to rid Calais of The Jungle if the migrants were able to get into the UK?
Whatever happens I will always do my best to ensure that our border remains in Calais. The Le Touquet treaty has been really very positive for Dover. We need to keep the juxtaposed controls to maintain our border security and avoid going back to the bad old days of a decade ago.
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