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Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart threatens to block port of Dover in row over illegal immigrants

By Victoria Chessum

Cross-Channel sailings from Dover could be disrupted after the mayor of Calais threatened to block its port.

Natacha Bouchart has called for Britain to do more to control the high number of illegal immigrants camping in Calais.

She made the threat to block the port while taking to journalists in Paris when discussing the issue with interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart wants tougher penalties for migrants who breach security at Calais terminal
Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart wants tougher penalties for migrants who breach security at Calais terminal

She said: "I could take the decision to block the port, I could bring pressure to bear.

"It would be illegal, but today I want to make a strong gesture towards the British."

She has said around 1,300 migrants have "taken hostage" of her city in their bid to reach Dover, the gateway to the rest of Britain.

The Port of Dover
The Port of Dover

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke tweeted: "Threats of a Calais blockade are barmy and illegal. It would harm trade and the economies of Dover and Calais."

Speaking to KentOnline this morning, he said: "This is a wrong turn - Dover and Calais need to work together to solve this problem, and not have angry words exchanged across the Channel.

"This is not the answer."

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke
Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke

A P&O Ferries spokesman said the suggestion of a blockade was unhelpful and such action would have a damaging effect on cross-Channel trade.

The suggestion was a sign of the frustration in Calais where nightly raids on the port by illegal immigrants are now commonplace.

"There needs to be an international political agreement to resolve the whole issue of immigration into the EU, let alone the UK," the spokesman added.

But a Kent MEP said he sympathises with the mayor of Calais over a threat blockade the French port town.

Richard Ashworth MEP
Richard Ashworth MEP

Conservative Richard Ashworth said the government needed to invest more in border security and that it appeared not to understand the scale of large-scale trafficking that was leading to hundreds of migrants setting up camp in Calais.

"I interpret her comments as a cry for help and I have a lot of sympathy for her. If the same thing was happening here, say in Dover or Folkestone and it was the other way round, we would be thinking of something we could do."

He said the government needed to understand that the situation in Calais was largely because of large-scale organised crime from African countries.

"The government must do much more to crack down on organised crime and must invest more to improve [border] controls. However much they have invested, it is not doing the job."

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