- It is by no means certain that the French would withdraw their agreement to juxtaposed controls in Calais. Even if they were to do so, refugee camps in Southern England would be extremely unlikely. There is no prospect of camps being set up in the UK in order for migrants to make the return journey.
- It is reported that the Prime Minister will today warn that a vote to leave the European Union would lead to migrant camps such as those in Calais and Dunkirk appearing in the South of England. It is claimed that the agreement that allows for what are known as juxtaposed controls (UK immigration officials stationed in France and vice versa) could be scrapped in the event of an exit from the EU.
- The Le Touquet Agreement signed by France and the UK in 2003 is the legal framework that establishes juxtaposed immigration controls at port terminals. This framework is entirely separate from the EU and would not necessarily be scrapped in the event of a British exit.
- Indeed, the French must consider orderly arrangements for the flow of goods and passengers across the channel to be in their own interests; this is the reason that they agreed to these arrangements in the first place.
- The French would also be conscious that weaker controls in Calais could well attract even more migrants and asylum seekers to the Calais region posing further difficulties for themselves. This is borne out by the words of the French Interior Minister on 20th October 2015: “Calling for the border with the English to be opened is not a reasonable solution. It would send a signal to people smugglers and would lead migrants to flow to Calais in greater numbers. A humanitarian disaster would ensue. It is a foolhardy path, and one the government would not pursue.”
- In the event that the UK was to vote to leave the European Union and juxtaposed controls were abandoned, British immigration officials would no longer be based in France.
- For those individuals with the legal right to enter the UK there would be no change.
- Those without the legal right to enter the UK would not suddenly all be able to buy a ticket and board a ferry in France and arrive in the UK. It is required of ferry operators to be satisfied that the passenger has the right to enter the UK before they board the ferry and ideally only those with the legal right to enter the UK should be able to buy a ticket.
- It is relevant that border controls are operated in Belgium and the Netherlands without their being juxtaposed. Those without the right to enter the UK cannot at present buy a ticket and board a ferry from the Netherlands to the UK. In the event that an illegal immigrant were to arrive in the UK from France, whether on the ferry or as a stowaway, the UK would be able to send that individual back to France unless he or she claimed asylum. In this case the UK would have a legal duty to process the asylum claim and any subsequent appeal. In the event that the asylum application was successful a claimant would have the right to remain in the UK as a refugee but if the asylum claim was unsuccessful then that individual would be liable to removal as is the case now. This is unchanged from the current situation except that, if the UK can prove that France was first port of entry into the EU, the applicant can be returned to France under the Dublin Regulation.
- The argument seems to be that, in the event that juxtaposed controls were scrapped, the French authorities would be less concerned about detecting stowaways than the British officials currently stationed there. However, it is still in the interests of haulage companies and ferry operators to detect illegal migrants because they are subject to fines by the UK authorities in the event that they do carry stowaways to the UK.
- As for the possibility of refugee camps in Southern England, it is hard to see how that could arise. Those that got through would either disappear or they would claim asylum, in which case they would go into the present arrangements for their support until their claims were decided.
- Finally, it should be noted that the UK is bound into the 1951 Refugee Convention by the Lisbon Treaty. The Convention itself provides for a member state to withdraw at 12 months’ notice to be given to the Secretary General of the UN (Article 44).