Calais Regional President: Migrants Should Be Allowed to Claim U.K. Asylum in France

Calais migrants
Migrants walk past a tent in the make-shift immigrant camp, called the jungle, in Calais, June 24. The city's regional president has said these people should be able to apply for U.K. asylum while in France. Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Calais's regional president has said that asylum seekers in the port city should be allowed to apply for British asylum in France.

At present, migrants can only make such a claim once they reach the U.K., with many risking their lives to do so.

Xavier Bertrand told the BBC that the Calais-based migrants should be able to go to designated "hotspots" in France and apply for refuge in the U.K. If this is denied, Bertrand said, France would then deport these migrants back to their country of origin.

Bertrand's plan would involve amending the existing Treaty of Le Touquet between France and the U.K., which states that migrants have to be in the U.K. to make an asylum claim, The Independent reported.

For the 9,000 or so migrants in Calais, the treaty's existence means they try and enter the U.K. illegally, with many attempting to stowaway inside vehicles bound for Dover.

The U.K. Home Office maintains that it has a good relationship with France on immigration and protecting the Calais border. It has also said that under the EU-wide Dublin Regulation, migrants must seek asylum in the first safe country they enter.

However, many French politicians support Bertrand's idea to change or scrap the treaty. Among them is former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who originally signed the agreement back in 2003. Sarkozy is seeking re-election in next year's presidential race.

At a recent political rally, Sarkozy told the crowd: "I'm demanding the opening of a center in Britain to deal with asylum seekers there so that Britain can do the work that concerns them."

On Monday, Sir Peter Ricketts, the former British ambassador to Paris, told BBC Radio Four that changing the treaty to allow migrants to claim British asylum in France would only worsen Calais's problems.

"As soon as you [suggest] that, there would be a huge magnet pulling thousands and thousands more migrants into Calais to chance their arm, make an asylum claim, hope that they might get to the U.K.," Ricketts said.

U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd is expected to visit Paris this week to discuss the treaty. If France abandons it, then the U.K. might also lose its right to inspect the passports of people leaving Calais for Dover.