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France Calls on Britain to Play Greater Role in Handling Calais Migrant Crisis

  • Lisa Bryant

French President Francois Hollande (R) shakes hands with the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, during a meeting with officers of the French Gendarmerie in Calais as part of his visit to the northern French port which is home to the "Jungle" migrant camp, France, Sept. 26, 2016.

French President Francois Hollande (R) shakes hands with the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, during a meeting with officers of the French Gendarmerie in Calais as part of his visit to the northern French port which is home to the "Jungle" migrant camp, France, Sept. 26, 2016.

France says Britain must play a bigger role in resolving a shared cross-channel migrant problem, and vowed a vast and squalid camp in the port city of Calais will be fully dismantled.

Making his first trip to Calais as president Monday, Francois Hollande did not visit the so-called "Jungle," now bursting at the seams with up to 10,000 migrants.

Site of British wall in Calais, France

Site of British wall in Calais, France

However, the camp was the main focus of his trip, following protests against the increasingly brazen tactics of asylum-seekers trying to cross the channel to Britain.

Hollande said the migrant camp, which was partly razed earlier this year, must be completely dismantled, but also that the migrants must be treated with humanity and dignity.

A migrant walks past a shelter with a French flag in the southern area of the camp called the "Jungle" in Calais, France, Sept. 26, 2016.

A migrant walks past a shelter with a French flag in the southern area of the camp called the "Jungle" in Calais, France, Sept. 26, 2016.

He said London must play its role in handling what he called the humanitarian effort in Calais. Apparently referring to Britain's decision to leave the European Union, he said the exit did not mean London could disengage from its obligations toward France.

The Calais camp has become symbolic of Europe's larger quandary over handling the flood of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. The subject has deeply divided the European Union, and dominated a Balkans summit Saturday in Austria.

FILE - French riot police stand guard at the entrance to the "Jungle" as dozens of migrants try to storm trucks that are heading toward the ferry terminal in Calais, France, Sept. 21, 2016.

FILE - French riot police stand guard at the entrance to the "Jungle" as dozens of migrants try to storm trucks that are heading toward the ferry terminal in Calais, France, Sept. 21, 2016.

Closer to home, Calais has become a political flashpoint before French presidential elections next year. The far-right, anti-immigrant National Front party is popular in the region. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running again for office, called for renegotiating a migrant treaty with Britain during a visit to Calais last week.

London is financing a highly controversial wall going up in Calais. It aims to keep migrants from trying to board trucks bound for Britain; but, at a time when anti-migrant walls and fences are sprouting across Europe, the Calais construction is taking on a bigger significance.

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