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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Should Sangatte be closed?
The UK has pledged up to 5m to beef up security at the French end of the Channel Tunnel.

The package was among a number of measures agreed at a meeting between UK Home Secretary David Blunkett and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in an attempt to progress to the eventual closure of the Sangatte refugee camp.

But France said it would not set a date for closure of the camp, near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, until the UK toughened up its immigration laws.

The Red Cross camp - which has been described as a staging post for illegal immigrants heading to the UK - houses about 1,500 refugees and has been a source of tension between the two countries for some months.

Do you think the Sangatte refugee camp should be closed? Does the UK need to toughen up its immigration laws?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Britain is the most desirable country for any illegal immigrant due to the ability for them to get a job without a proper work permit. There are many of them around London working in restaurants, shops, hotels, domestic and child minding sectors, etc. Greedy employers provide a safe haven for the illegal immigrants to enter, work and stay in Britain. They accumulate wealth by saving on contribution/insurance, low wages etc. I personally have never heard of any employer being prosecuted for employing a person without a work permit. Sangatte camp should stay open in order to prevent exploitation and crime from both unscrupulous employers and immigrants and to provide comfort for any genuine refugees and asylum seekers who need it.

I would like to take issue with Thom who says that "immigrants are essential" because this is a complete myth. What is essential is that our current citizens are given proper education so that the one million unemployed will have the skills to fill any skills gap in this country. In addition, there should be more flexibility for retirement ages where we have many people who wish to carry on working in their later years with the right skills. Can people please stop their hand-wringing and stop making excuses for our failure as a country to deport these unwanted immigrants. If we took a poll in this country about whether we wanted more immigrants we all know what the result would be. Over 90% saying "no" to immigrants. Shut Sangrette and even better, shut the Channel Tunnel.
Rob, UK

Closing the camp may help, but won't get to the root of the problem. The refugees will still travel to the channel tunnel even if the camp isn't there. We need to repatriate all asylum seekers that arrive from France back to France, much like in the arrangement that existed before 1997. We also need to take control of security at the French end of the tunnel, as the French have shown they are clearly incapable of this task - then the camp could stay open. If the French refuse to consent to this, the tunnel should be closed until they do.
Craig, UK

Sangatte was put in place to offer refuge

Phillip Holley, UK
No it shouldn't. Sangatte was put in place to offer refuge to all those people sleeping rough etc on their way to Britain. Take it away and they'll still be there but just causing disturbance and annoyance to the local population.
Phillip Holley, UK

Definitely, yes. The only reason it was opened was to give easy access to the tunnel - not as a humanitarian gesture. While people in this country see hundreds of people virtually running wild on the other side of the Channel, with half-hearted attempts by the French authorities to deal with the situation, they will simply grow more hardened to the welfare of these people. The whole thing is a shambles and the current buck passing will solve nothing.
Phil, UK

Why not make the Sangatte refugee camp a UK pre-processing centre for the refugees? There would be a motive then for refugees to stay there, not hop onto trains - normal rail services could then be resumed. Refugees who fail are allowed to go through an appeal which, if still failing, would result in the right to submit to one other EU state. If this eventually fails (so UK and no other EU state willing to have them) then they must relocate outside the EU. The Sangatte refugee camp would still be French and run by the French - but would contain UK offices. This plan might involve more costs but would allow the refugees to be processed in one place, could contain them if there was a security issue and would allow the freight trains to run.
Steve Broderick, England

The whole of the EU has been laughing at us

Andy, UK
I don't think the French have played fair on this issue at all. It seems obvious that the camp was set up strategically close to the Channel Tunnel, because the French Government knew it would result in refugees heading for the UK and not staying in France. I can't help feeling that the whole of the EU has been laughing at us for being such a soft touch and being to afraid to voice objection.
Andy, UK

Closing the Sangatte refugee camp will have a short-term effect. The trouble is that starving and exploited people around the world have nothing to lose, which is why they risk death from electrocution on freight trains.
Anthony, Reading, UK

I am fed up with seeing all these immigrants running alongside trains to get into the UK. They should build a 'Berlin Wall' around the entrance to the tunnel guarded by army sentries.
Gary, UK

They see us as one of the least racist countries in Europe

Mike Donovan, UK
The reason illegal immigrants come to Britain is because they see us as one of the least racist countries in Europe, with a reputation for freedom, tolerance and democracy, not to mention the fact that our grandparents fought a war against the kind of intolerance they are fleeing from. I am very proud that we are perceived in this way. It has nothing to do with our benefits system. Luckily their perception is mainly right - apart from a few bigots (well represented here as usual) who think we are a 'soft touch', but who have probably never even met an asylum seeker and just swallow whole whatever they read in the right wing press.
Mike Donovan, UK

The choice is between closing Sangatte or closing the Channel Tunnel

Paul R, UK
I'm afraid that the choice is between closing Sangatte or closing the Channel Tunnel. These people are risking their lives breaking into the freight complex and the French Government allows them to dice with death over and over again. Accepting the asylum seekers into the UK could be a political minefield for Blair though, unless their claims will be processed quickly and fairly and any opportunists rapidly deported.
Paul R, UK

Sangatte was opened only because large numbers of asylum seekers were congregating on the streets of the village. Closing the camp will make life even worse for the residents, who are already suffering high levels of crime committed by the criminal element of the refugees. We need to get British forces at the French end of the tunnel and at the ferry ports instead of leaving it to the French, who turn a blind eye.
Andrew H, England

Yes, close it. It's a pretty inhumane place to keep people really. Remember that many of these refugees/economic migrants have been through some terrifying experiences back in their own countries. No wonder they all want to come to Britain.
David Hartley, Stourbridge, West Midlands, UK

Keep it open. We don't want those queuing to use the tunnel catching pneumonia and trench-foot before they even arrive. Our NHS is struggling already!
Chris B, England

Until we do start actually deporting arrives in realistic numbers then people will still turn up at the Channel Tunnel hoping to get through. With several hundred already in the pipeline from eastern Europe and beyond it won't be long before the French authorities are forced to open a newer Sangatte. This changes nothing except allowing a load of unwanted illegal immigrants into the country.
Martin, England

Encourage more immigrants to Britain - we need them

Thom Boston, London, EU
Why does Martin say they are 'unwanted'? They are an economic necessity. Our ageing population is unsustainable without a supply of people from abroad because our birth rate is so low. When these people who are so anti-immigration get older and there is no-one around to pay taxes for pensions, the NHS etc, maybe they'll regret their small-minded attitude. Close it and encourage more immigrants to Britain - we need them.
Thom Boston, London, EU

We need to ask the question - why do people insist on living in England instead of the rest of Europe? It's not like the weather is any better here!

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25 Jun 02 | UK Politics
23 May 02 | UK Politics
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