In Depth

Refugee crisis: Calais Jungle children 'have nowhere to sleep'

Around 100 youngsters left in refugee camp after French demolition crews tear down tents and shelters

Disturbing footage emerges of refugees at UK base in Cyprus

3 November

Disturbing footage has emerged from a British military base in Cyprus where more than a 100 refugees are being detained after they came ashore on the island last month.

The video, obtained by The Guardian, appears to show a refugee at the Dhekelia base threatening to kill himself before British police rush in to stop him.

In another clip, a man is seen bleeding from his face after reportedly cutting himself. "We have asked for journalists to be present here," he says. "Why are you keeping us hidden?"[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"86379","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

A protest is also filmed at the gates of the military compound, with refugees begging authorities to let them leave the base. One man is heard shouting: "We are people, not animals!" 

The 114 refugees were brought ashore at the RAF's Akrotiri base last month after they were abandoned at sea by people smugglers. The majority of them are from Syria and they include 28 children.

Their arrival has triggered a diplomatic dispute, with the Ministry of Defence denying responsibility for the refugees and the UN insisting that Britain has a duty to resettle those who land on its sovereign territory.

Cyprus has since agreed to process their asylum claims and the refugees will remain at the base until then.

The MoD says it is working closely with the Cypriot authorities to resolve the situation "as quickly as possible" and insisted that the refugees were being treated well.

"We are aware of a small number of incidents at the temporary accommodation facility," a spokesperson said. "Those staying there have access to food, shelter, privacy and communications, which United Nations staff have visited and say exceeds the standard of comparable setups."

This isn't the first time refugees landing at a British base in Cyprus have caused legal issues. A group of Iraqi Kurds who washed up on UK sovereign territory in Cyprus in 1998 are still living in legal limbo and have never left. 

Refugee crisis: Boris Johnson tells Cumberbatch he's wrong

2 November

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has taken aim at the actor Benedict Cumberbatch for condemning the government's response to the refugee crisis after a performance of Hamlet at London's Barbican theatre last week.

Cumberbatch told the audience it was an "utter disgrace" the UK wasn't doing more to help those fleeing war and conflict, and reportedly shouted: "F*** the politicians!"

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson said he was "grateful" that he had not been in the audience that night because "I think – or at least I hope – that I might have shouted 'rubbish', or at least murmured some feeble dissent in a voice loud enough to provoke my neighbours".

The Hamlet star condemned the UK government for only agreeing to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years, but Johnson said that "David Cameron has done the right thing".

While the mayor acknowledged that Britain must do "everything we reasonably can" to help those fleeing war and persecution, he expressed doubt over whether many of the people were genuine refugees.

"The truth is that there are many millions now on the move, not because they are necessarily in immediate fear for their lives, but because they are in search of economic betterment for themselves and their families," he wrote.

His assertion is contrary to the assessment of the United Nations, which contends that the vast majority of people arriving in Europe are fleeing the bloody civil war in Syria. Many others have fled war, violence and oppression in countries like Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

Benedict Cumberbatch rants about Britain's refugee response 

2 November

Benedict Cumberbatch delivered an impassioned speech about the refugee crisis after a performance in the West End last night.

The actor, who is currently starring in Hamlet at London's Barbican theatre, condemned the UK's response to the humanitarian catastrophe and reportedly shouted: "F*** the politicians!"

He has been giving regular speeches on the crisis after his performances, asking the audience for donations to help Syrian refugees. So far, more than £150,000 has been raised for Save the Children.

He began by reading the poem Home by Somali poet Warsan Shire, which contains the line: "You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land."

One theatregoer told the Daily Mail: "Out of nowhere came this 'f*** the politicians' remark. It's not quite what you'd expect when you go for an evening with the bard, but it got a few cheers."

Cumberbatch has been increasingly critical of Britain's response to the refugee crisis and last night said it was an "utter disgrace" the UK wasn't doing more to help those fleeing war and conflict.

The government has agreed to accept 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years, but critics argue that it is nothing compared with the four million refugees who have already fled Syria.

Earlier this month, Cumberbatch said he wanted to sit down and discuss the situation with Home Secretary Theresa May. "There is a huge crisis and not enough is being done," he told Sky News.

"Yes, we need long-term solutions; yes, we need to get people out of the camps so they don't make a perilous journey. But to say 20,000 over five years when 5,000 arrive in one day? We've all got to wake up to this."

What will happen to refugees at RAF military base in Cyprus?

22 October

High-level talks are underway between British and Cypriot authorities after refugees believed to be from Syria came ashore at an RAF military base in Cyprus yesterday.

Boats carrying 114 refugees, including 28 children, were abandoned by people smugglers in the early hours of Wednesday near the Akrotiri base on the southern coast of the Mediterranean island.

The base, which has been used to launch strikes against Islamic State, was briefly put on lockdown while the refugees received water, food, shelter and medical attention, The Times reports.

This is the first time refugees crossing the Mediterranean have landed on UK sovereign territory during the current crisis and their arrival at RAF Akrotiri has triggered an international dispute over their resettlement.

The Ministry of Defence says its first priority is to ensure everyone on board is safe and well. Asked what will happen next it said: "We have had an agreement in place with the Republic of Cyprus to ensure that the Cypriot authorities take responsibility in circumstances like this."

A Home Office spokesperson also insisted that the people who arrived at the base would not be able to claim asylum in Britain. "The resettlement of refugees landing on the southern bases in Cyprus is not the responsibility of the United Kingdom," she said.

But the United Nations refugee agency has contradicted both of these official statements, arguing that Britain has a duty to resettle those who land on its shores.

The UNHRC said in a statement that the 2003 agreement between the UK and Cyprus made it clear that "asylum seekers arriving directly on to the SBA [Sovereign Base Area] are the responsibility of the UK but they would be granted access to services in the republic at the cost of the SBA."

Refugees landing at Britain's bases in Cyprus have caused legal issues in the past. A group of Iraqi Kurds who washed up on UK sovereign territory in Cyprus in 1998 are still living in legal limbo and have never left, says The Guardian.

One of the men who landed at Akrotiri yesterday said he wanted to be taken to Britain. "We are escaping the war and the terrible situation that is happening in Syria," said 23-year-old Ali Nowfal. "I have an uncle in London. I want to go there."

Refugee crisis: UK's rhetoric 'echoes run-up to Holocaust'

15 October

The rhetoric used by the UK in response to the refugee crisis echoes language used in the run-up to the Nazi holocaust, the UN high commissioner for human rights has said.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the use of terms such as "swarms of refugees" was unacceptable. Although he did not name any individuals, his comment has been seen as a reference to Prime Minister David Cameron, who used the word "swarm" to describe migrants in Calais.

The high commissioner said the language surrounding the issue in Europe reminded him of the 1938 Evian conference, when the US, the UK and Australia refused to admit Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler on the grounds that they would destabilise their societies and strain their economies.

"It's just a political issue that is being ramped up by those who can use the excuse of even the smallest community as a threat to the national purity of the state," said Zeid in an interview published in the Guardian.

He added: "If you just look back to the Evian conference and read through the intergovernmental discussion, you will see that there were things that were said that were very similar."

Asked about the comments by Home Secretary Theresa May, who suggested that mass migration made it "impossible to build a cohesive society", Zeid said: "Closer examination of history and a closer examination of what happened in Europe in the early part of the 20th century should make people think very carefully about what it is that they're saying."

Earlier this year, the high commissioner also criticised The Sun newspaper for publishing a column by the ever-controversial Katie Hopkins in which she described migrants as "cockroaches". 

Refugee crisis: Britain's asylum policy is 'deeply inadequate'

12 October

A group of retired judges, senior lawyers and legal academics have attacked the government's response to the refugee crisis engulfing Europe, calling it "deeply inadequate". 

The scathing letter has 342 signatories, including former president of the Supreme Court Lord Phillips and former President of the European Court of Human Rights Sir Nicholas Bratza.

They branded David Cameron's decision to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years "too low, too slow and too narrow" and called for a more humane and effective response.

More than half a million refugees and migrants – the vast majority of them fleeing conflict in Syria and other conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa – have arrived in Europe this year alone.

"When history considers how our country has behaved in this moment of serious crisis, do we want to be judged as having wrung our hands while standing back in the face of immense suffering?" said Catriona Jarvis, a retired judge in the upper tribunal of the immigration and asylum chamber.

"We have a legal and moral responsibility to provide protection that is not beyond our capabilities and should not be beyond our will," she said

The letter calls for the suspension of the so-called Dublin system, which requires asylum seekers to make their claim in the EU country they first arrive in. It also suggests setting up a system of humanitarian visas to deter refugees from making dangerous crossings.

Such a move is unprecedented, says BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman. Though Cameron has been widely criticised for not doing enough to help refugees, it is "highly unusual" for former judges to publicly criticise government policy in such a way, he says.

"Today's statement is weighty and blunt."

Greens v Ukip: how the parties are responding to the refugee crisis

29 September

The UK Independence Party's hardline approach to the refugee crisis is in stark contrast to the Green Party's calls for Britain to do more to respond to the humanitarian disaster. Nowhere is that difference more clear than at the parties' annual conferences which get underway today.

The Ukip conference 

Ukip kicked off its conference in Doncaster with a 20-minute film on the crisis in Calais, which included quotes about how people felt "intimidated" by refugees, according to The Telegraph's Michael Deacon. "You are invited to guess the editorial slant of that film," he tweeted.

Afterwards, MEP Mike Hookem delivered a speech on securing Britain's borders. He said the situation in France is "totally out of control" and estimates that 90 per cent of the people in Calais were economic migrants with no right to enter the UK and not "genuine refugees" (the UN Refugee Agency says otherwise. Hookem also warned that the "gangs" of refugees were a threat to British hauliers as well as national security, the Guardian reports.

Speaking before his party's conference got underway, leader Nigel Farage said he felt vindicated by controversial comments he made about the refugee crisis before the general election. Farage had claimed that Europe's asylum policy was so generous that it would play into the hands of human traffickers and "cause people to drown in the Mediterranean." 

"I make no apology for having said that – it's proved to be true," he told the BBC yesterday.

The Green Party conference

Meanwhile, the Greens, who are in Bournemouth this weekend, are using their party conference to raise money for the refugee crisis in Calais. The party's deputy leaders, Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali, were two of just a handful of senior British politicians to visit the camp in France and talk to refugees about their experience fleeing war and violence in countries like Syria and Iraq. All of the funds raised will be donated to aid agencies Cal-Aid and L'Auberge Des Migrants.

"One way that we can help Europe's refugee crisis is by dispelling the myth that the people camped [in Calais] are a threat to the UK; it's wrong that so many of the stories about Calais reaching the UK are demonising and dehumanising," said Womack.

She also urged party members and activists to donate what they could to help improve the living conditions in squalid camps that are currently home to more than 3,000 men, women and children. "As we head into winter, it's important that everyone there has access to adequate shelter, clothing, shoes and hygiene products," she said.

David Cameron under fire for 'pathetic' refugee response

16 September

An emergency debate on the refugee crisis will be held in parliament later today after David Cameron was criticised for not doing enough to help refugees already in Europe. 

The Prime Minister announced that Britain will accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years, with vulnerable children, including those orphaned by the conflict, made a priority. 

"In doing so we will continue to show the world that this is a country of extraordinary compassion, always standing up for our values and helping those in need," he told MPs.

The figure was "bigger than expected", The Times says in its editorial, and it will bring about a "significant significant easing of suffering, not merely an easing of western consciences".

But Labour argues that the number is nothing compared with the four million refugees who have already fled Syria and the hundreds of thousands that will be accepted by other European states.

The party also criticised Cameron for only accepting refugees from camps bordering Syria, while ignoring those who have already arrived in Europe. 

"[Cameron] has said he does not want to encourage people to travel. I would say to him they are travelling already, they are not waiting for a response from the British Government," said Shadow Home Secretary and Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper, who called the debate.

Amnesty International also questioned why the plan only focused on Syrian refugees and accused Cameron of turning his back on people escaping conflict in other parts of the world. "[The plan does not] offer a solution to the many Eritreans, Afghans and others, forced to flee bullets, bombs, torture and overcrowded refugee camps elsewhere."

Charities have welcomed the prime minister's change of heart, but urged the government to go even further. "The weakness is timing," Mike Noyes from ActionAid told The Independent. "Spreading this over five years will not match the scale of the current crisis."

Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown has called the government's response to the humanitarian crisis "pathetic" and "derisory". Writing in The Guardian, he said the PM had only made the decision "after being taught an excruciating lesson in compassion, decency and leadership by Angela Merkel, and sensing himself behind opinion again."

Cameron says UK will take 20,000 refugees

7 September

David Cameron has outlined plans to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees into Britain over the next five years.

The decision represents a major policy shift, as Cameron had previously argued that accepting more refugees would simply encourage people to attempt the dangerous journey to Europe. However, he has since bowed to mounting pressure to do more to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis.

Chancellor George Osborne has announced that the government would divert funds from Britain's £12bn annual overseas budget to cover the costs. He said the money would be given to local councils to cover the refugees' housing and living costs for their first year in Britain.

International development secretary Justine Greening said that a spending review would be launched to ensure that "every additional pound goes towards addressing the global challenges that impact on Britain, like the crisis we've seen unfold on Europe's borders". 

Politicians and celebrities including Nicola Sturgeon, Yvette Cooper and Bob Geldoff have offered to house refugees in their homes and are urging Cameron to respond generously to the refugee crisis, the Guardian reports.

Meanwhile, refugees arriving at train stations in Germany over the weekend were given a warm welcome by locals handing out food, clothes and toys for children. "The heartfelt reception of the refugees seen in Munich was echoed throughout the country, with locals welcoming the newcomers with cheers and applause," reports Deutche Welle.

However, experts warn that a coherent diplomatic response to the crisis is urgently needed. "We cannot donate our way out of the crisis, we cannot solve it simply by taking in refugees, we have to find a diplomatic route to end the conflict [in Syria]," UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt and Arminka Helic, former refugee and member of the House of Lords, write in the Times.

"The way we respond now will confirm what kind of countries we are, the depth of our humanity and the strength of our democracies."

David Cameron agrees to accept more refugees

4 September

David Cameron has conceded to mounting pressure and is set to announce plans to welcome thousands more refugees into Britain.

The refugees are expected to come from UN refugee camps situated along the Syrian border, not from camps in Calais or Western Europe.

However, The Guardian points out that the final number of refugees allowed into the UK will amount to fewer than tens of thousands – far fewer than the number Germany is likely to take.

The move comes after calls for the government to do more to respond to the humanitarian crisis intensified in the wake of shocking images of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who washed up on a Turkish beach.

The Prime Minister initially rejected calls from European leaders for Britain to take "its fair share" of refugees. However, Cameron later said: "Anyone who saw those pictures overnight could not help but be moved and, as a father, I felt deeply moved by the sight of that young boy on a beach."

But this dramatic U-turn does not mean the Prime Minister has changed his views on how best to respond to the crisis, warns the BBC's deputy political editor James Landale.

"He still thinks opening up Europe's borders and agreeing quotas will not solve the refugee crisis. In fact, he thinks it would make it worse by increasing pull factors and encouraging people traffickers."

"But, as the crisis gets worse and the public and political pressure grows, the prime minister does now accept that Britain has a moral duty to do more," says Landale.

Cameron is expected to outline further details of the plan during a scheduled visit to Spain later today. He is in the country to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU ahead of the referendum, but his plans for EU reform have been overshadowed by the growing refugee crisis.

Meanwhile, the tense stand-off between Syrian refugees and riot police in Hungary is continuing into its second day. Refugees who boarded a train bound for the Austrian border were forcefully unloaded and taken to a refugee camp. Some families clung to railway tracks after trying to run away from police, while others remained onboard overnight, according to Al Jazeera.

The Hungarian government has been condemned for its response to the crisis and this morning the Prime Minister said he did not want to let any more Muslims into the country. "We do not like the consequences," Viktor Orban said, referring to the country's 150-year history of Ottoman rule.

A series of high-level talks is being held across the continent today, including a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, in an attempt to develop a coherent response to the crisis.

Photos of dead Syrian boy 'wake-up call' for PM

3 September 2015

Photographs of a dead Syrian child washed up on the shore in Turkey have been described as a "wake-up call" for David Cameron and the rest of Europe to help the record number of people fleeing conflict in their home countries.

A picture of the little boy being carried by a Turkish official features on the covers of several UK newspapers today, some dedicating their entire front pages to the image.

The boy is believed to be one of 12 Syrian refugees who had been trying to cross the Mediterranean on two boats headed to the Greek island of Kos.

The Independent has defended its decision to publish a more graphic image of the boy lying face down in the sand, arguing that "it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees". If these "extraordinarily powerful images" don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, "what will?" asks the newspaper.

Migrant crisis

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the pictures were "beyond horrific" and are "the wake-up call David Cameron needs", while the Daily Mirror says the pictures are a wake-up call not only for Cameron, but for all of Europe.

"On our Continent and off its shores a terrible humanitarian tragedy is unfolding, which shames all those governments, including the British, which turn their backs on desperate people," says the newspaper. "To save others, let the awful death of that boy be the moment we all stood up to be counted by doing the right thing."

The photographs have spread across social media, with many praising the power of photojournalism. However, some accused sections of the media of hypocrisy, pointing out that calls to keep migrants out of the UK have turned to calls for humanity, on the axis of a photograph. Others expressed dismay that it took a photograph to inspire compassion when more than 220,000 people had already died in the Syrian conflict.

But human rights activists have argued that the distressing images need to be seen and that they could act as a catalyst for the international community to take action.

Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, told The Guardian: "This tragic image of a little boy who's lost his life fleeing Syria is shocking and is a reminder of the dangers children and families are taking in search of a better life. This child's plight should concentrate minds and force the EU to come together and agree to a plan to tackle the refugee crisis."

Refugee crisis: British police to take on people-smugglers

20 August 2015

British police are to be deployed to Calais to work with French officers and the EU border force to fight people-smugglers in an attempt to alleviate the migrant crisis. The news comes as Home Secretary Theresa May visits the French port.

The team will work in a new command and control centre, says the BBC. Other measures announced today include more UK money for CCTV, fencing, floodlights and infra-red detection technology.

May is meeting her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, today. The two ministers will visit the Eurotunnel terminal and meet aid groups who work with the thousands of migrants living in a makeshift camp called 'The Jungle'.

It is the first visit to Calais by a British minister since the crisis escalated earlier this summer, says The Guardian. She will sign a deal with Cazeneuve and the two will issue a joint statement to the press.

The joint policing effort will be led by two senior officers, one French and one British, who will report back to May and to Cazeneuve, France's minister of the interior. By working collaboratively, it is hoped they can disrupt the people smugglers.

As well as the joint police presence and the physical security measures funded by both countries, there will be:

  • Extra French police units, detection dogs and teams to search freight
  • More Eurotunnel guards and tightened security inside the tunnel
  • A new "integrated control room" covering the railheads at Coquelles
  • A Franco-British security audit to design the improvements

The British government has already committed £22m to improve security in Calais, including £7m on fencing.

Yesterday, the border force Frontex said that 107,500 migrants had entered the EU in July alone, far more than in any other month since 2008. It is thought that some 240,000 have crossed the Mediterranean this year, ending up in Greece or Italy.

The intensified crisis is caused at least in part by Syria's fierce civil war, though a similar flood of refugees are coming from Libya.

Calais crisis: hauliers and drivers owe £4m in migrant fines

5 August 2015

British haulage firms have been hit with fines totalling £4m after migrants were found in their vehicles, as the crisis in Calais continues to escalate.

Both drivers and their employers have been fined up to £2,000 per migrant as they enter the UK or are searched by British officials in Channel ports in France and Belgium, the BBC reports.

The number of fines is up 50 per cent on the previous year, with the spike a result of thousands of migrants attempting to board vehicles bound for Britain.

Transport companies say that the system is "unfair", but the British government argues that many of the lorries do not have "basic standards of security". Several haulage companies have stopped conducting business through the French port altogether as a result of the soaring costs.

But the human cost is rising too, and experts say this is what politicians and the public on both sides of the Channel should be focusing on.

At least 11 migrants have lost their lives since the beginning of June, including an Eritrean baby who died within hours of being born.

There are currently up to 4,000 people, including women and children, living in squalid camps in Calais dubbed 'The Jungle'.

150805-calais-migrant-jungle.jpg

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The situation has escalated in recent months with a surge in new arrivals from Africa and the Middle East, and has also been exacerbated by a ferry workers' strike that began more than a month ago.

The crisis in Calais should not be treated "as a transport or business story" but a "humanitarian time bomb," says the Daily Telegraph's Emma Barnett. "These are real people, with hearts, families and lest we forget it, human rights."

Professor Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford agrees. "It's really important that the public understands who the people are and why they are coming," he told Vice. "The reason they are coming is because we face a global refugee crisis."

Landlords who take illegal migrants face jail

3 August

Private landlords will face serious fines and even jail sentences if they continue to offer housing to illegal immigrants, the government will announce today.

The onus will be on the landlords to check the immigration status of potential tenants: if they find their papers are not in order, the landlords will have the power to evict them promptly.

The new measures are designed to meet growing public concern over the Calais crisis. The Daily Mail says seven out of ten migrants "massing at Calais" are making it to Britain, while Eurotunnel warns that the clampdown in Calais could see migrants try to enter the UK via smaller French ports like Le Havre and Dieppe.

Onus on landlords 

The new rules, to be laid out today by Communities Secretary Greg Clarke, will be included in the forthcoming immigration bill. A pilot scheme currently operating in the West Midlands, under which landlords are obliged to check evidence of a person's right to be in the UK, will be extended nationwide, The Guardian reports.

"Rogue landlords" who repeatedly fail to carry out the checks and, when necessary, remove tenants, could be fined or jailed for up to five years under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

On the other hand, the government will change the law to allow landlords to evict such people without a court order.

The bad old days?

The Guardian calls the new eviction rules a "dramatic illustration" of the government's initiative to "discourage migrants from leaving their countries of origin in the first place".

But is there a danger that landlords will simply avoid trouble by refusing to rent to anyone who looks like their immigration status might be questionable? It could see a return to "the bad old days of No Blacks, No Jews, No Gays," the BBC's assistant political editor Norman Smith told the Today programme this morning.

No more benefits

The new onus on landlords comes hand in glove with Home Office plans, revealed by the Sunday Times, to strip migrant families of their rights to benefits when they fail to win asylum.

Currently, about 10,000 families with children receive £36.95 a week on an 'Azure' card which can be used to purchase essentials while they wait to be sent home. The plan is to bring families with children into line with childless adults who enjoy no such rights.

The Sunday Times said ministers were "braced for a fierce row over the plan". Already the Refugee Council has expressed "grave concerns", The Guardian reports.

Calais clampdown

The government is promising a "surge" of private security guards to help man the 10-mile-plus fence around the Eurotunnel terminus in Calais, as well as extra CCTV and lighting.

But it's not the long-term solution, Eurotunnel's public affairs director, John Keefe, tells The Times.

"It will be a deterrent but it will not solve the problem. What it might do is displace the problem to other ports where security is not as high." He suggested that the French ports of Le Havre, Dieppe and Cherbourg, and the Belgian port of Ostend, were all at risk. "The migrants are desperate. They are likely to look elsewhere."

The bigger picture

In a Sunday Telegraph article, co-signed by her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve, Home Secretary Theresa May sought to get out the word that Britain's "streets are not paved with gold".

But Britain and France are accused by Sweden of not taking "responsibility" for accepting asylum seekers. Sweden allows anyone from Syria into the country, the BBC reports, and last year accepted 30,000 asylum seekers compared to Britain's 10,000.

The UK needs to take more of its share, said Morgan Johannson, the Swedish migration minister, and David Cameron should stop "playing politics".

"I hear what he is saying about illegal immigrants and about swarms and everything like that," Johansson said. "I think he's playing on strings – that he wants to actually divide people – and that's not a constructive way."

Calais crisis: how much is it costing UK business?

31 July

British businesses are feeling the strain of measures police have taken to manage the knock-on effects of strikes and closures in Calais. 

Amid headlines that point to a growing humanitarian crisis at the French port, Kent Police confirmed this morning that Operation Stack remains in place on the M20 motorway in Kent and is expected to continue "into the weekend".

The process of closing a lane to accommodate lorries queueing to cross the Channel has been deployed on what the Freight Transport Association described to the BBC as an "unprecendented" scale in June and July. But what are the consequences in terms of costs for the businesses affected?

The FTA has said the bill for the UK as a whole could be as much as £250m a day. The Guardian says this figure [3] is based on study commissioned by the port of Dover but yet to be released, which calculated the annual value of goods in the 2.2m freight vehicles travelling via Dover and Calais to be £89bn – £243m for each day.

In fact the figure could be higher still. Dover claims freight traffic has expanded "considerably" since the study and that it only takes into account ferries, which represent 63 per cent of Channel crossings. The real figure could on this basis be as much as £160bn, which would equate to £440m a day.

But The Guardian adds the numbers are "vastly improbable" and do not take account of the fact Calais has only been fully closed for a few days, many ferries are diverted to other ports and that Eurotunnel, for all its own problems, has broadly continued to operate.

It says the FTA is on "safer ground" with estimates of costs to hauliers of £750,000 a day through delays and spoiled loads, "with £2m of fresh produce having to be dumped each week".

This rough estimate is supported by the claims of companies themselves, with the owner of Lincolnshire-based Denby Transport telling ITV News his own company has lost "tens of thousands" of pounds and Welsh haulage firm MCL Logistics telling the BBC it is facing a bill of £100,000 a month.

All of this does not count the costs landing on public services, which are also considerable. The BBC says Operation Stack has so far cost Kent Police around £700,000, while the Government has said it will spend up to £7m improving security around the tunnel to deal with migrants attempting to illegally enter the UK.

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