AFP – French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday that Britain’s vote to leave the EU should not affect a deal to stop migrants crossing the Channel, which led to many being stuck at camps in Calais.
“Calling into question the Touquet deal on the pretext that Britain has voted for Brexit and will have to start negotiations to leave the union doesn’t make sense,” Hollande said after an EU summit in Brussels.
The so-called Le Touquet accord, reached in 2003, effectively moved Britain’s border with France to the French side of the Channel, where migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have massed in their thousands.
It notably allows for British border controls in Channel ports in France.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed there would be no changes to the accord as he met with Calais officials in Paris.
“The border at Calais is closed and will remain so,” he said.
Calls by some French officials to challenge the treaty in the wake of Britain’s seismic vote to leave the bloc would only encourage human traffickers, Cazeneuve said, potentially triggering a “fresh influx of migrants into Calais” and a spike in risky attempts to cross the Channel.
Many in northern France believe that getting rid of British border controls in France would trigger an exodus of migrants from the squalid “Jungle” camp in Calais and other makeshift camps along the coast, easing the burden on France.
French authorities began dismantling the “Jungle” in March, but several thousand migrants refused to move out and remain holed up there, hoping to find a way to Britain.
Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart told reporters after the meeting with Cazeneuve that something had to change.
“We can’t take it anymore… I demand that we renegotiate the Touquet accord,” she said.