The French Government will propose a new law to prevent police from arresting illegal immigrants bound for the UK in a move reminiscent of the Sangatte refugee centre scandal.
The new law will prohibit French police from detaining illegal immigrants for longer than 6 hours, effectively freeing them to make repeat attempts to enter the UK, report the Daily Mail and the Telegraph.
The new law could come into effect by the autumn.
The papers report that there are estimated to be up to 1,000 illegal immigrants waiting on the coast of France for an opportunity to cross into the UK, most often stowed in the back of haulage trucks.
The scandal closely mirrors that created by the controversial Sangatte refugee centre which was created close to Calais in the late 1990s. The refugee centre became notorious as a holding camp for illegal immigrants who could then make repeat attempts to cross into the UK. The camp was closed amidst controversy in 2002 by the then Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy.
The Daily Mail reports that the new Hollande administration has ordered the construction of refugee centres which are being dubbed ‘mini-Sangatte’.
At present illegal immigrants are considered ‘aliens’ in France, with police having the power to arrest and detain them indefinitely, before commencing deportation proceedings once their identity has been established. Under the new rules this will not be possible, effectively allowing illegal immigrants the opportunity to make repeated attempts to pass into the UK.
The new law has been welcomed by human rights groups in France. Agathe Marin works at the Cimade refugee association.
“Until now, the police have been arresting and detaining immigrants on a massive scale,” she told the Telegraph.
“After they are detained, most of these people are released anyway. We hope this ruling will ensure the police are respectful of immigrants’ basic rights,” she added.
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