UK-funded 'Great Wall' of Calais slammed by critics
Plans to construct a 13ft high concrete wall in Calais at the expense of British taxpayers have been met with mixed reactions in the UK.
The barrier, which will stretch nearly a mile long and cost an estimated £2 million to construct, is set to replace fencing, and will be designed to prevent refugees from climbing into lorries and other vehicles in their attempts to reach the UK. Construction is set to begin this month.
Addressing the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, immigration minister Robert Goodwill claimed the barrier’s construction was necessary due to the shortcomings of existing deterrents in the French coastal city.
"People are still getting through," said Goodwill. "The security that we are putting in at the port is being stepped up with better equipment.”
But Goodwill’s announcement has been met with criticism by many in the UK.
Some voices criticised the proposed plan as a misuse of government funds.
Speaking to Sky News, Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett described the move as "a poor use of taxpayers' money" claiming that a more effective deterrent would be to increase “security along the approach roads".
Last month pro-Brexit campaigners produced statistics claiming 84,088 people had been stopped trying to enter the UK illegally from France and Belgium.
However, others objected for ethical reasons.
Seeking Sanctuary, a Christian charity currently working in Calais where as many as 9,000 refugees are currently living in overcrowded and squalid conditions, said that the construction of the wall would not solve the problem.
"The way the governments have reacted to the situation far from addresses the scale of the problem, by setting the local inhabitants, the lorry drivers and the exiles in the camp against each other, rather than seeking to find solutions that could help them at all," said Phil Kerton, a spokesman for the organisation, speaking to the London based radio station Premier.
Steven McIntosh, Head of Government Relations at Save the Children described the plans as calculated and callous, emphasising that given the hardships faced by many in Calais emphasis should have been placed on their protection.
“Desperate children and young people will try to escape the camp to reach safety and a better life – it’s vital that we ensure any security measures put in place in Calais don’t put their lives at risk by pushing them into the arms of smugglers and people traffickers,” said McIntosh in comments published on Save the Children’s website.
“These children – many of whom have fled war, poverty and persecution – have suffered enough. The British Government has promised to bring vulnerable lone children trapped in Calais to the UK. It’s time now to make that promise a reality.”
Many British citizens took to Twitter to express their opinions on plans for what has been dubbed by some newspapers as the “Great Wall” of Calais.
Some made humorous comparisons with American Republican party presidential nominee Donald Trump’s plans to construct a barrier along the US border with Mexico, and asked incredulously why British taxpayers would be paying for a structure built on French soil. Others agreed with the idea in principle but believed that at 13 ft the wall would not be tall enough to serve its intended purpose.
Construction of the wall in Calais is part of a £17 million package of security measures that France and Britain agreed upon earlier this year in March.