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In France, barrier sends grim message to migrants

April 16, 2017 GMT
A migrant jumps a fence as he attempts to access the Channel Tunnel in Calais. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)
A migrant jumps a fence as he attempts to access the Channel Tunnel in Calais. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)
A migrant jumps a fence as he attempts to access the Channel Tunnel in Calais. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

A concrete wall, one kilometer (over half a mile) long and four meters (13-feet) high, is the finishing touch on an already elaborate defense system against migrants in the northern French port city of Calais.

The wall is to be cloaked in vegetation and disguised as a sound barrier. But its grim message is clear.

Britain doled out the 2.7 million euros ($2.9 million) to pay for the edifice along the highway leading to the Calais port, much used by truckers crossing the English Channel.

Migrants swarmed to Calais for years hoping to sneak to Britain, often in the backs of freight trucks. A huge makeshift camp was dismantled in October with thousands of migrants bused to special centers.

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Calais was already fortified against migrants when construction of the wall began last August. White barbed wire-topped fences lace large sectors of the city, particularly around the port and the Euro-tunnel train entrance. Trees have been chopped down and shrubbery razed to eliminate hiding spots, and artificial ponds created as obstacles. Thousands of police were brought into town.

The wall is an extension of a white fence along the entry road to the port. The state prefecture has billed the wall as a protective measure _ to prevent migrants from getting hit by trucks along the road, for drivers and nearby residents and as a way to keep smugglers who prey on migrants at bay.

But even Mayor Natacha Bouchart, who fought with gusto to keep migrants out of Calais, opposed the wall as “degrading” once it was announced that the migrant camp would be dismantled.

“It took so long to destroy the Berlin Wall that I don’t want a second one in Calais,” Bouchart was quoted as saying by the local newspaper Nordlittoral.

She lost a court battle against its construction. The wall was completed in mid-December. Foliage is to adorn it later this year.

_Elaine Ganley in Paris