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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Tories question Tunnel security costs
The French end of the Channel Tunnel
The Channel Tunnel is a target for asylum seekers
The Conservatives are asking why the UK is going to pay millions of pounds for security on the French side of the Channel Tunnel.

The criticism came as Home Secretary David Blunkett hailed the "long overdue progress" he had made with his French counterpart.


In resolving to help the French problem, we substantially resolve our problem

David Blunkett
A promise of 5m from the UK to beef up security in France was part of a package Mr Blunkett agreed on Tuesday with Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Tories welcomed other parts of the deal, such as joint monitoring of illegal immigrants, while the Liberal Democrats argued that securing a common European asylum policy should be the priority.

'Restore old deal'

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin asked: "How is it that the French managed to persuade the home secretary that it was our responsibility to pay for security on their side of the Channel?"

Mr Letwin urged Mr Blunkett to get help from his predecessor, Jack Straw, now Foreign Secretary, in restoring the old deal with France that had meant asylum seekers sent back within 24 hours.

The success of that agreement, which was in place in the mid-1990s was challenged by Mr Blunkett.

French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy
Sarkozy: No date set for Sangatte closure
He defended too the use of UK cash to improve measures against illegal migration in France.

"In resolving to help the French problem, we substantially resolve our problem," Mr Blunkett told MPs.

"That is what an intelligent approach seeks to offer."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said closing the Sangatte refugee camp, which has been described as a springboard for illegal entry to the UK, and improving security was not going to stop people movements.

Instead, the only real substitute for the current "nonsense" of European asylum policy was to ensure asylum claims were processed in the same way across the EU.

Central EU agency?

Mr Blunkett agreed "substantial measures" on sharing the asylum challenge and finding administrative ways of dealing with it.

But he doubted a central EU agency for dealing with applications could work.

On Tuesday, France outlined its commitment to close the Sangatte camp but said it would set no timetable for that move.

Mr Blunkett described the talks as "a marathon and not a sprint".

Agreed measures
UK will fund 5m security measures at Frethun
More UK-France joint police operations
UK will consider compulsory ID cards
France may set a date for closing Sangatte after UK immigration legislation is changed
The 5m funds agreed for French security will fund fencing, alarms and surveillance equipment at the Frethun rail freight depot near the tunnel entrance.

Under the deal, there will be more joint operations between UK and French intelligence to crack down on people-traffickers.

France which has called on Britain to tackle the so-called "pull factors" attracting people to the UK, also welcomed the UK's promise to produce a consultation paper on identity cards.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said the closure of Sangatte remained a goal, because the issue had been "poisoning" relations between the two countries.

Mr Sarkozy said he would set a date for the closure of the camp after the UK's new Asylum and Immigration Bill - currently working its way through Parliament - was in place.

Further negotiations between the two ministers will be held in Paris on 12 July.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sue Nelson
"There'll be more joint operations between British and French intelligence"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Sangatte
Is closing the camp the solution?

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25 Jun 02 | UK Politics
24 Jun 02 | UK Politics
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