- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CALAIS, FRANCE (AP) - French police raided tent camps for a mass identity check Tuesday and detained nearly 200 people found without residency papers around Calais, an English Channel port that is a magnet for illegal migrants trying to reach Britain.

France is being pressed by Britain to do more to keep migrants from crossing the channel. Immigration Minister Eric Besson is scheduled to visit Calais on Thursday to lay out proposals for stopping illegal migration as well as deal with the growing humanitarian problem in the city.

Police in full riot gear joined regular officers in a sweep of sites where migrants have set up camp, including one area dubbed “the jungle” where tents and even a makeshift mosque have been set up in a field in an industrial zone.

As home to ferry terminals and an entrance to the English Channel train tunnel, Calais is a leading jumping off point for migrants who try to sneak into Britain, often hiding in trucks. Britian’s asylum rules are seen as more lax than those in France.

Migrant numbers, many of them Iraqis, Iranians, Afghanis and Pakistanis, had diminished after a Red Cross-administered shelter in nearby Sangatte was torn down in 2002 but recently began growing again.

Tuesday’s sweep, in which 194 migrants were detained, was aimed at weakening networks of smugglers, local authorities said in a statement.

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