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Sunday, 20 January, 2002, 01:55 GMT
Blunkett 'to raise Sangatte concerns'
Refugees hide their faces
Sangatte is a source of cross-Channel tension
Home Secretary David Blunkett will discuss the controversial Sangatte refugee camp near Calais during a meeting with the French employment minister on Monday.

The Red Cross camp, where some 1,200 refugees are housed, is a source of tension between the two countries, with Eurotunnel urging the French to shut it down.

Not only is it just two miles from the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, but it has been branded as a staging post for illegal immigrants on their way to the UK.

By contrast, French Employment Minister Elisabeth Guigou has argued for more camps to be set up near Sangatte to ease overcrowding there.

'Routine visit'

French Employment Minister Elisabeth Guigou
Mme Guigou suggested a network of refugee camps
A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that Mr Blunkett and Mme Guigou would have a "private meeting" in London on Monday afternoon.

It was a "routine" visit and Mme Guigou would be meeting other ministers, including Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

However, a spokesman for Mr Blunkett played down the significance of the discussions saying that there was no fixed agenda and that the Sangatte refugee camp was not the primary purpose of the meeting.

He denied that Mme Guigou had been "summoned" for the meeting as reported in a Sunday newspaper.

Home Secretary David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett will hold talks with Mme Guigou
Last autumn, Mme Guigou heightened Anglo-French tensions over illegal immigration by suggesting the establishment of a network of camps for would-be refugees near the Channel Tunnel.

She said then: "There will be several shelters. We must be able to ensure decent housing conditions for these people who are in our territory."

But government sources in London suggested Mme Guigou's views did not coincide with those of France's Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant nor Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who would block her plans.

See also:

10 Jan 02 | Europe
Legal challenge to close Sangatte
26 Dec 01 | Scotland
New calls to close Sangatte
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