Britain 'a magnet for immigrants'

Preston and Leyland Citizen: MPs blamed the Border Force for failing to find "concealed illegal entrants" in lorries before they travel to Dover MPs blamed the Border Force for failing to find "concealed illegal entrants" in lorries before they travel to Dover

Britain has created "a magnet for illegal immigrants" which attracts t housands across the Channel from Calais, the French port's immigration chief has said.

Philippe Mignonet, who is also the town's deputy mayor, claimed that up to 15,000 migrants were entering Britain illegally through France every year.

Accusing Britain of hypocrisy for talking tough on immigration but allowing migrants to stay in the country, he called for border controls to be transferred from Calais to Dover.

It comes days after MPs blamed the Border Force for failing to find "concealed illegal entrants" in lorries before they travel to Dover.

Claiming the matter was fundamentally a "British problem" , Mr Mignonet told the Daily Telegraph: "The quickest, most radical and easiest solution would be simply to shift the border from Calais to Dover and Folkestone and then the problem wouldn't be handled in France but Britain.

"The ease with which illegal immigrants can work on the black market in Britain, coupled with the fact that migrants' family members can more easily join them, means that Britain is a magnet for illegal immigrants."

Mr Mignonet claimed up to 40 migrants were getting through to the UK every night despite the efforts of the UK and French border agencies to stop them.

French interior minister Manuel Valls last week pledged police reinforcements for Calais to deal with migrants and a centre to give them medical treatment.

He also said he had invited Home Secretary Theresa May to visit the town next year to renegotiate an agreement which led to the closure of the Sangatte refugee camp in 2002.

Under that deal, Britain pays towards the policing of migrants in Calais, with British police and border officials operating on the French side of the Channel.

Mr Valls said: "Our British friends must take more account of the burden, the weight placed on France by the Calais migrant problem."

The Public Accounts Committee last week charged the Border Agency with failing to meet eight of its 19 performance targets.

A decision to prioritise passenger checks last year meant that illegal immigrant checks on freight had been suspended, the committee said.

Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: ''The Border Force prioritised passenger checks on arrival at the expense of other duties and weakened the security of our borders.

''The force neglected to examine freight for illicit goods, neglected to check lorries in Calais for concealed illegal entrants, and failed to check passengers coming into Britain on private planes or boats, potentially letting billionaire gangsters off the hook.

''The morale of staff is at rock bottom, threatening the prospect of achieving the increases in productivity and flexibility of workforce which the Border Force so sorely needs."

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