- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

CALAIS, France - A refugee center is being built in Calais despite condemnation that it will become “Sangatte 2” and lead to a fresh influx of illegal aliens into Britain.

The center, taking shape on wasteland close to the town’s main ferry port, is being built by charities to offer free meals, showers and advice to hundreds of refugees camping out in woodland and living in poverty in the town.

Although the center will not provide overnight accommodations, it has drawn protests from Britain, where opposition politicians fear it will become a stop-off point for thousands more illegal aliens attempting to enter Britain.

Comparisons are being made with the infamous Sangatte Red Cross Center, which closed in 2002 under an agreement between the French and British governments.

Before its closure, illegal aliens regularly made the short walk from Sangatte which housed 67,000 over three years to the nearby Channel Tunnel entrance to try to jump onto slow-moving trains or hide inside trucks crossing to Britain on ferries.

Reports suggest that gangs of human smugglers are preparing to target those using the new center.

“I’m sure the charities behind this center have the right intentions, but ultimately, they are creating another hub for people wanting to enter the U.K. unlawfully,” said Richard Ashworth, a member of the European Parliament from Britain’s Conservative Party.

Mr. Ashworth said he was urgently trying to arrange a meeting with the communist mayor of Calais, Jacky Henin to discuss the issue.

“Sangatte 2 will provide the French authorities with an opportunity to pass their own problems on to us again,” said another European lawmaker from southeastern England, Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party.

A report by the charity Medecins du Monde warned of a “major humanitarian crisis” if the illegal aliens in Calais were not given shelter.

About 1,500 refugees live in squalid makeshift camps including one in the woods nicknamed “the Jungle” next to the new center.

Yesterday, dozens of them many from Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Iran watched the new center take shape, with workmen hauling prefabricated sections into position.

“The center will give us hope. There are vulnerable people among us, including women with babies. The winter was terrible, but now we hope we can look forward to a place which will welcome us,” said a man who identified himself as Ahmed, an 18-year-old Somalian.

A spokesman for Calais Town Hall said, “The general consensus here is that it would be preferable to have a permanent center where charities could care for the migrants instead of them sleeping rough in local woods.”

A spokesman for the French Interior Ministry said it was “unaware” of the new center, which was agreed upon at the local level.

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