French and British Citizens Both Support Bringing UK Troops to Calais for Migrant Crisis

Migrants try to cross from Calais to London by tunnel AFP Photo

The migrant crisis in Calais, on the French side of the Eurotunnel, has grown so severe that polls show a surprising degree of agreement between French and British citizens that British troops should be deployed on French soil to help secure the tunnel.

The findings from a YouGov survey were reported by English-language French news site The Localwhich notes that before the current migrant crisis developed, the French resented treaty arrangements that brought the British border across the Channel and onto French soil, while the British people were not terribly eager to station troops in France.

That was then, this is now. As thousands of Middle Eastern refugees mass in Calais and launch daily attempts to breach the tunnel and rush into the United Kingdom, the YouGov poll finds 67% of the British public in favor of deploying troops in Calais to secure the tunnel entrance and ferry terminals. 54% of French respondents also favored the idea.

The Local reports public support rising after “a call by the furious head of a UK hauliers association for the British army to be sent to Calais,” matched by comments from the French police that they do not have the manpower to control the surging migrant force. “We have only 15 permanent French border police at the Eurotunnel site. Can you imagine how derisory this is given the situation? So I say, why not bring in the British army, and let them work together with the French?” said the head of the local French police union.

YouGov also found a surprising degree of agreement between French and British citizens over responsibility for the migrant crisis. French respondents blamed their own government and the U.K. roughly equally for the situation, with a mere 11% of the French holding the British government more responsible, while 40% of Britons thought the French government was primarily responsible.

However, the British public was willing to accept that the U.K.’s generous policies made them a magnet for refugees. “The British public believe it is because the UK has more welfare benefits, whereas the French think migrants head across the channel because it is easier to work without official documentation in Britain,” writes The Local.

One bit of mounting disagreement between the British and French concerns the business of building fences to keep migrants away from the Eurotunnel and ferry facilities. The BBC quotes French police decrying fences as a “short-term solution” that would merely lead to a “displacement of the problem,” perhaps sending the migrants to ports in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The BBC article warns of human-smuggling operations working to bring migrants into the UK for a price, and quotes some refugees vowing they will “reach Britain or die trying.”

The UK Mirror ran an article on Tuesday recounting the experiences of Jaz O’Hara, a 25-year-old British woman who journeyed to Calais and spent time living in the growing “jungle” of refugee camps.  She found them “loosely and naturally divided by country, with every one of the world’s warzones represented.”

O’Hara, who uploaded many photos of the camps to her Instagram account, lauded the refugees for living peacefully together despite the hostile circumstances they fled.  “This struck a chord with me – it was immediately clear that these people, fleeing war and persecution, want anything but conflict,” she wrote.