Migrants carrying sticks march in the streets of Calais, northern France, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. French authorities say four migrants have been shot in the northern port city of Calais in a confrontation that police tried to stop. (AP Photo)

France sends more police to Calais after migrant gunfight

February 02, 2018 - 6:02 am

CALAIS, France (AP) — Police reinforcements arrived Friday in the French port city of Calais after clashes among migrants left 22 people injured, with the interior minister warning of more potential violence among those seeking to cross into Britain.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters in Calais on Friday that five of the victims were injured by gunfire in Thursday's fighting, blaming migrant traffickers and "totally organized" gangs. Police were seeking a shooting suspect but have made no arrests, he said.

Firearms are rare among migrants, and the shootings were the most serious clash in recent times among migrants around Calais.

Two extra police units were arriving Friday, Collomb said. He said that while in the past such violence was spontaneous, he said it appears to be growing more organized. He said local authorities have dismantled six migrant trafficking networks already this year, compared to 20 in all of 2017.

The prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais region said the gunfire was the culmination of a showdown between Afghan and Eritrean migrants, fighting each other with sticks and stones, after a meal distribution near the Calais hospital.

In a second confrontation, up to 200 Eritrean migrants cornered 30 Afghans near the former site of a makeshift migrant camp that housed thousands of people before it was evacuated and destroyed in 2016.

Collomb said the government will start meal distribution to migrants outside Calais in the coming two weeks, instead of leaving it to aid groups, in an effort to stop feeding spots from becoming fixed nodes of tension.

Insisting that "very few" people successfully sneak across to Britain, Collomb said, "if you want to go to Britain, you shouldn't go to Calais."

Collomb also called for long-term solutions to speed up asylum decisions and deport economic migrants with no right to refugee status.

Tensions have been high in Calais since the camp was destroyed. More than 1,130 French security forces have been posted in Calais to keep migrants out of the port and Eurotunnel and to stop them from setting up camps.


Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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