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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Multi-million-euro Calais security plan
Would-be asylum-seekers climb the fence at Frethun
Ordinary fences provide little deterrent
The French rail company SNCF has announced it will spend 7.3 million euros ($6.7m) on security measures at the rail freight depot in Calais to stop incursions by illegal immigrants.

Two would-be asylum-seekers enter a container on a train
The French authorites say closing the camp will not solve the problem
The company plans to erect a double layer of fencing and barbed wire around the freight yard's 4.5-kilometre (three-mile) perimeter fence.

It will also install infra-red cameras to monitor movements at the freight yard, which has become the focus of attempts by immigrants from the nearby Sangatte refugee centre to reach the UK.

SNCF security chief Bruno Chretien told the daily Le Parisien newspaper that those breaking into the yard were using increasingly violent techniques.

"Today we are facing new arrivals, mainly Iraqi Kurds, who are much more aggressive than two months ago," he said.

"They are organised like a mini-army with leaders and groups to cause diversions. They are ready to do anything to achieve their objective and have absolutely no fear of a uniform," he said.

Mounting pressure

The SNCF's announcement comes after strong British criticism of the security at the freight yard.

UK Home Secretary David Blunkett has also sought urgent talks with the French Government over the future of the Sangatte camp, which Britain holds responsible for the number of immigrants penetrating the tunnel.

Scores of immigrants escaped through the tunnel to the UK after specialist police officers - guarding a freight yard near Calais - were assigned to other duties last weekend.

Downing Street said earlier this week it had received assurances from the French authorities that the number of police patrolling the entrance to the tunnel had been restored to normal.

But Mr Blunkett continued to insist that the real issue was the closure of Sangatte.

French observers, however, point out that the camp was set up in the first place to get immigrants off the streets of Calais, and that closing the camp would not stop them trying to get to Britain.

The BBC's Louise Bevan
"Asylum seekers regard the freight depot in Calais as the weakest link"
See also:

17 May 02 | Europe
'My night at Frethun'
15 May 02 | England
Asylum police sent to Tunnel yard
03 Apr 02 | England
Insurers' 97m Yarl's Wood claim
14 May 02 | UK Politics
Anger over new asylum sites
14 May 02 | England
Tunnel stowaways arrested
01 Apr 02 | England
Yarl's Wood shut down
23 Feb 02 | England
Police resist 'riot' damages claim
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