Sat, Feb 03, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Five shot in Calais brawl blamed on people traffickers

AFP, CALAIS, France

Migrants carrying sticks march through the streets of Calais, France, on Thursday.

Photo: AP

Five migrants were shot during a giant brawl in Calais yesterday, leaving four fighting for their lives in what the French government called an “unbearable” escalation of violence in a port that serves as a gateway to Britain.

Twenty-two were hospitalized with injuries after three fights across the city, which drew in hundreds of the migrants camped out in the hope of stowing away on a truck bound for Britian, officials said.

Four Eritreans, who were shot in the neck, chest, abdomen and spine, were in critical condition, they said.

Police were searching for a 37-year-old Afghan suspected of the shooting.

A number of other migrants sustained stab wounds in what French Minister of the Interior Gerard Collomb, who visited the scene of one of the clashes near a food distribution point, called an “escalation of violence that has become unbearable for the people of Calais and the migrants.”

The violence comes two weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron visited Calais with a message of zero tolerance on migrants setting up camps like the sprawling “Jungle” which was razed in 2016.

He later traveled to Britain, where British Prime Minister Theresa May agreed to pay more to help stop migrants trying to reach Britain and to take in more unaccompanied minors.

Crucially, Macron did not seek to renegotiate a controversial 2003 deal effectively pushing Britain’s borders back onto French soil.

Collomb, who met with security forces and immigration officials in Calais, on Thursday accused people traffickers, who charge the migrants hefty sums to secure passage to Britain, of “fueling daily violence and brawls.”

“This is a level of violence never seen before,” he said.

He repeated that the French government would not allow migrants to settle in the area.

“The message I want to get across is that if you want to go to Britain, it’s not here you should come,” he said, adding that minors applying for asylum in Britain would be automatically moved to shelters elsewhere in France.

Clashes between migrants are a frequent occurrence in Calais, where newcomers live scattered in the woods, emerging at night to try to waylay passing trucks.

The notorious Jungle, once home to about 10,000 people, was demolished in 2016, but hundreds more migrants have since descended on the city.

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