Calais plea to Cameron on migrants

An injured man is helped away from a migrant food queue in Calais as tensions remain high following clashes between rival groups. (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A group of migrants make their way through Calais, France, as tensions remain high following overnight clashes between rival groups waiting to try and cross the Channel to Britain.

Deputy Mayor of Calais Philippe Mignonet

First published in Sport © by

Britain has been called on to do more to share the burden of immigration after successive nights of violence led to dozens of injuries on the streets of northern France.

The deputy mayor of Calais appealed to the historic "Entente Cordiale" between Britain and France as he invited David Cameron to help come up with a solution.

Philippe Mignonet said the port town had been saddled with an image of "a theatre of war" far removed from the reality.

He spoke as tensions remained high in Calais following clashes between African migrants massed in the town.

Overnight 51 people were injured when up to 300 rival Sudanese and Eritrean migrants attacked each other using weapons including stones and knives.

Tear gas was fired to try to quell the unrest, which erupted following the daily distribution of food handouts by volunteers to more than 800 migrants.

Mr Mignonet told the Press Association: " dream of seeing Mr Cameron facing the reality in Calais.

"Her Majesty the Queen in England has said for ages that the French and English must keep the Entente Cordiale. This is your chance to prove it.

"Come to Calais, Mr Cameron, come and see what we face. After that we must work together to make some modern proposals in Brussels.

"We must be more intelligent." He said "it's easy to criticise until you face the reality" and said officials in Calais were not to blame.

His comments came as Calais mayor Natasha Bouchart reportedly said she would pay for ferry tickets for all migrants to remove the problem from her town.

Ms Bouchart is also said to have written to French president Francois Hollande and Mr Cameron every day urging them to find a solution.

Mr Mignonent went on: "Last night was terrible, 200 to 300 fighting together and 51 migrants were injured.

"We think that the number of migrants being there is creating problems between the different nationalities, the different mafias, because there are mafias working on that and making profit helping migrants get into the trucks."

Dover Tory MP Charlie Elphicke said that UK border controls at Calais were "effective" in keeping Britain's borders safe and secure.

Today near the ferry port police patrolled the area, stopping to talk to people sleeping in doorsteps and near illegal camps set up by groups of immigrants from different parts of Africa.

At a camp where hundreds of Eritreans squat waiting to try their luck at getting into the UK, one 20-year-old man, who did not want to be named, described a turf war between Eritreans and Sudanese rivals vying for the most successful places to get onto lorries travelling to England.

The man, who left Eritrea five months ago, travelling through Sudan, Libya, and Italy before arriving in Calais a month ago, said: "The Sudanese don't want us here, they tell us this is their place and we should go away.

"They fight with us every night, but it is not just fighting, they have knives as well."

The man said he is trying to get to England where he hopes to study electronics, and had come to France alone, leaving his parents in Eritrea.

One Syrian immigrant said there was regular fighting between different groups of Africans but he did not understand exactly what the root cause was.

He said: "They stop you at night and look at the colour of your skin, asking where you're from. When they see you're not black they let you go.

"It's the blacks fighting other groups of blacks but we don't know why. We don't understand."

He said there were only around 30 other people who had come from Syria, while hundreds of migrants from parts of Africa have descended on the area.

One 17-year-old Eritrean boy looking to gain passage to Britain confirmed that knives and stones were used in the attacks at the food distribution centre.

He said: "It was scary. It was between Eritreans and Sudanese. The Sudanese used knives and stones. They were hitting my sisters over the head."

The boy, who declined to be named, said he had not been in contact with his parents for the past three months as they remain in Africa.

Last night's clash was the third in 48 hours between migrants massing in Calais in a bid to cross the English Channel to Britain, their numbers swelling in summer months to more than 1,000.

In May, three makeshift migrant camps were evacuated and destroyed amid insanitary conditions and an outbreak of scabies.

The use of Calais as a stepping stone to Britain has long been a problem for France.

In 2002, the French government closed the Sangatte Red Cross centre, near Calais after repeated lobbying by then home secretary David Blunkett.

Today Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg outlined his party's vision for an immigration system centred on "proper controls without loopholes" and "border checks" in which people "can finally have faith".

In a swipe at his Tory coalition partners, Mr Clegg said the Government "shouldn't be obsessing about net migration figures which don't make sense" but should be "concentrating on the nitty gritty of a system that works".

In a speech designed to reach out to voters ahead of next year's general election, Mr Clegg provided a four-pronged plan for tackling the system, including action on illegal immigration, European migration, speaking English and attracting bright students from around the world.

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