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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Blunkett hails French election result
Kurdish immigrants at a camp in Southern Italy
Blunkett hopes progress will be made over Sangatte
Home Secretary David Blunkett has hailed the French election results as a positive development in the UK's campaign against illegal immigration.

French centre-right parties swept to victory in the government election on Sunday.


We can do business with this government

David Blunkett

The result gives conservative President Jacques Chirac more power than at any time in the last five years, whereas the previous administration had more in common with Labour's centre left policies.

But Mr Blunkett did not appear to regard the two sides' ideological differences as a barrier to solving the bogus asylum seekers problem declaring "we can do business".

British campaign

Mr Blunkett said: "I welcome the new government's determination to tackle the situation in northern France.

"We can do business with this government, and I have invited the new interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, to London next week to start finding solutions to the problems of illegal immigration facing both our countries."

Last month Mr Sarkozy said it was an "objective" of the French government to close the Red Cross camp at Sangatte, which is used as a springboard for immigrants to sneak into the UK through the Channel Tunnel.

David Blunkett, Home Secretary
Blunkett confident Sangatte issue can be addressed

There has been a long-standing campaign in Britain for the closure of the camp, including calls from the British government.

Mr Blunkett and his French counterpart will meet in London on 25 June, and again in Paris on 12 July, when they are likely to discuss both Sangatte and the bigger issue of illegal immigrants travelling across Europe.

On Monday, the home secretary will be in Dover, inspecting new heartbeat sensors which enable the detection of illegal immigrants hidden inside lorries.

Public misconception

His visit comes ahead of a European Union summit in Seville on Friday at which the asylum seeker issue is top of the agenda.

The top level meeting comes at the end of Refugee Week.

A MORI poll commissioned to mark the week, found British people hugely over-estimate the number of asylum seekers in the UK.

People believe Britain takes in nearly a quarter of the world's asylum seekers, when the true figure is less than 2%.

The survey of 2,200 people found that teenagers exaggerated the numbers even more than adults.

Chief executive of the Refugee Council, Nick Hardwick, said: "Clearly, a lot of work still needs to be done to raise awareness among children about who refugees are and why they flee."


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12 Jun 02 | UK Politics
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24 May 02 | UK Politics
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