Calais migrants threaten action

12.Nov.02,  first published by BBCnews: read the original article here.

Illegal immigrants holed up in a church in the northern French port of Calais say they will go on hunger strike if they are not allowed into a nearby refugee camp, which is now closed to new entrants.

At least 70 asylum-seekers spent their third night in the Saint Pierre Saint Paul Church, surrounded by French riot police. All electricity supplies to the church have now been cut off.

The migrants, mainly Iraqi Kurds and Afghans, are demanding access to the nearby Sangatte Red Cross refugee shelter, which closed its doors to new admissions last week after immense pressure from the British Government.

The camp is seen as a last staging post for immigrants who want to get to Britain using the nearby Channel Tunnel.

Alternative offer

An evacuation deadline set by Calais' Communist mayor, Jacky Henin, who had offered use of the building in order to stop the migrants sleeping rough on the streets, has expired without police storming the church.

A second deadline has been set for midday (1100GMT) on Tuesday, but French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said it would be up to the church leaders to authorise the forcible evacuation.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy in Calais says it is unlikely they will do this.

French officials want to transport the immigrants to centres in other areas of France where their asylum claims would be processed.

About 30 of the asylum-seekers accepted this offer and left on Monday, but the 70 remaining appear to have little desire to stay in France.

Living on streets

Many have paid large sums of money to flee such trouble spots as Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo, and made long, dangerous journeys hiding on trucks and in containers.

Until Sangatte opened, they had been sleeping rough on beaches and in parks.

Opponents of the camp's closure argued that people would go back to the streets if the centre was shut down, which has proved to be the case.

After three years, the Sangatte centre is set to close for good in April, following an agreement between France and Britain aimed at clamping down on illegal immigration.