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French Proposal for Second Refugee Camp Draws Criticism - 2001-09-03

The French government is reportedly planning a second refugee center near the English Channel. The intent is to ease overcrowding at an existing facility near Calais. The present camp is already controversial, and the proposal for a second one has drawn criticism from Britain.

The refugee center in Sangatte is just two kilometers from the Eurotunnel entrance at Calais - a fact that has not escaped the attention of the 700 Iraqi Kurds and Afghans in the refugee camp.

Many of them have tried to use the rail tunnel that links Britain and France, to get to Britain, which has a reputation for being more lenient with asylum seekers.

In the past few days, 100 of the refugees were intercepted as they tried to get to Britain through the tunnel. It was the third such incident in a week.

The operators of the channel tunnel have asked a French court to shut down the Red Cross-administered camp. The British government is threatening to fine the company $3,000 for every immigrant caught trying to use the tunnel to sneak into Britain. A British cabinet minister said the location of the camp is "not helpful."

The French government is indicating it wants to open another Red Cross center in Dunkirk - another popular departure point for asylum seekers heading for Britain. Eurotunnel says that would be a disaster.

But the deputy mayor of Calais says refugees will come to his city to try to get through the tunnel on a train or in the back of a truck, whether there are camps in the area or not.

Local officials want the governments of France and Great Britain to jointly find a solution for dealing with refugees and asylum seekers.