The Dunkirk migrant camp was destroyed in a fire last week. The flames tore through the closely-packed huts, burning them to the ground as hundreds of vulnerable people fled for their lives. The devastation brought back memories of the huge fires we saw at the Jungle camp in Calais. And it reminded us all of why we fought so hard to get the Jungle dismantled last year.
Because the Dunkirk fire yet again showed just how dangerous these camps are – for the people who live there and for tourists and truckers who travel through the area. We at the Dover and Deal frontline can all vividly remember what it was like in Calais. By last autumn nearly 10,000 people had been lured to Calais, living in conditions of appalling squalor – rickety shacks and tents. There was no running water and little sanitation. Just 22 miles across our English Channel, people traffickers roamed free, exploiting migrants – adults and children alike.
Dismantling the Jungle and moving the people there into safe reception centres far from Calais was a major step forward in weakening the pull factor people traffickers rely on. In putting an end to the Calais migrant magnet.
With the Jungle gone, the focus turned to the Grande-Synthe camp, near the port of Dunkirk. Yet the numbers there were only 1,500 – far fewer than at Calais.
The French rightly had a plan in place to dismantle the Dunkirk camp later this year. But last week's fire means hundreds of migrants are suddenly left looking for somewhere to stay.
Yet setting up a new camp would be completely the wrong thing to do. It would only make matters worse. French officials say the Dunkirk fire was started during a fight between Afghan and Kurdish people traffickers. It just goes to show that migrant camps are a magnet for these ruthless criminal gangs – a place for them to search out victims to lure into their evil trade of modern slavery.
That's why the French must be on high alert to stop any migrants from trying to set up new camps in Calais or Dunkirk – before the first tent is pitched. These vulnerable people should be helped to reception centres far from Calais – safe places with proper sanitation – and then helped back to their home nations. It's time to put an end to these squalid camps and the people traffickers who roam free within them.
And it's time we had the investment we need at the Dover and Deal frontline. The stronger our border security – the weaker the pull for migrants to make their way to Northern France.
We must continue to work closely with the French. To keep tourists and truckers safe from harm. And to wage war on the people traffickers – and end their evil trade of modern slavery.
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