Dear Vice-President Timmermans,
For many weeks now an important trans-European travel route from the UK to mainland Europe has been repeatedly blocked sometimes as a result of militant French trade unions, but mostly because of the trespassing and even tragic deaths of migrants desperate to leave Calais and enter the United Kingdom via the Channel Tunnel.
The situation in Calais has become unsustainable and it is time the French government stepped in to take responsibility for processing the migrants that have set up camp close to the entrance to the tunnel and now live in substandard conditions. Instead, the French government is taking action to make the camp a permanent feature. A camp is not a long term solution to anything.
The French government is working in cooperation with the British government to set up a safe zone for hauliers, but the Elysee Palace is failing to take sufficient measures to tackle the root of the crisis. This is not fair to anybody: travellers, hauliers or the migrants themselves.
They deserve their right to have an asylum application heard, whether in France or in the first safe country they arrive such as Italy. Countries that are demanding solidarity of others are failing to display responsibility themselves. Their responsibility is to process migrants arriving on their shores and determine the strength and validity of their case. If migrants do not meet the appropriate criteria then sadly they should be deported.
We await proposals from the commission to clarify a workable and effective returns policy for failed asylum seekers.
France is failing in its responsibility under the treaties to ensure the uninhibited passage of people across the EU, and to ensure basic humanitarian standards for migrants living in their country. The Mayor of Calais - with limited powers and resources - cannot resolve this problem alone. Therefore the time has come for the European Commission to step in and demand France ask for assistance from the commission, including from the European Asylum Support Office.
Enough is enough. One of the benefits British people see in their EU membership is the ability to drive through mainland Europe without hinderance or substantial delay. It is time for the European Commission to start putting pressure on the French government. France must take action that is appropriate for the scale of the crisis on its border.
Timothy Kirkhope MEP,
Conservative Justice and Home Affairs spokesman in the European Parliament
Mr Kirkhope received the following response from Vice-President Timmermans of the Commission on 31st July:
Dear Mr Kirkhope,
Thank you for your letter sent by email on 27th July. The Commission is closely following the situation in Calais and the worrying developments of recent days.
The Commission welcomes and fully supports the close cooperation that has been established between the UK and French Governments to address the situation. We have been in touch with both countries, and have signalled that we stand ready to provide support if requested.
Whilst policing the area around the Eurotunnel is a matter of nation competence, the Commission stands ready to assist the French authorities with technical support through the EU agencies (Frontex, EASO, Europarl and Eurojust) and emergency funding. So far, the Commission has supported France with €3.78 million of emergency funding for the financing of a day accommodation centre. If France asks for further assistance, or requests the technical support of the Agencies, we stand ready to help.
You rightly stress the importance of an effective return policy. A balanced approach to managing migratory pressures means that whilst those in need of international protection can find safe haven in the EU, those who do not have an entitlement to stay are returned in a timely and effective manner. In the European Agenda on Migration which the Commission presented in May, we set out our intentions as regards stepping up the rate of return of irregular migrants. Frontex has a clear mandate, under its current legal basis, to provide assistance to Member States in organising joint return operations. In the Draft Budget for 2016, the Commission has proposed that over €16 million should be dedicated to allowing Frontex to step up its return activates. We will also bring forward a proposal to amend the legal base of the Agency to strengthen its role on return.
The Commission will continue to monitor the situation on the ground in Calais very closely.