We will never forget the horror of the Calais Jungle. This was a desolate place where vulnerable people lived in appalling squalor. There was no running water – and no sanitation. The only accommodation was rickety shacks. People traffickers roamed free exploiting the desperate people who lived there with false promises of a better life.
Day by day the numbers in the camp grew – they came in the hope of breaking into Britain for a better life. Calais became a migrant magnet. By the summer of 2016, more than 10,000 people were living in the Jungle.
As Dover's border security was stepped up, the traffickers became ever more desperate. They attacked lorries on the roads to Calais. Wielding machetes and chainsaws they chopped down trees and threw them into the road. They wreaked havoc – stopping lorries so migrants could be smuggled into the back. Truckers and tourists were left terrified as burning branches were thrown across the highway, while traffickers revved their chainsaws by the side of the road.
It was chaos. That's why I fought so hard to get rid of the Jungle once and for all. The French authorities finally caved in and in the autumn of 2016 the camp was dismantled. The people of Calais got their town back. We must never allow the Jungle to return. Not just for our security – but to protect vulnerable people from the traffickers seeking to exploit them for the evil trade.
Yet already it seems the lessons of the recent past have already been forgotten by some. One London Labour MP is calling for the UK to take in more migrants from Calais. When we hear about vulnerable people living in harsh conditions, of course our first instinct is to want to help. Yet here at the Dover frontline we know that it will simply make Calais a migrant magnet again – and condemn vulnerable people to appalling conditions and a hellish life once more. We cannot allow that to happen.
Let's not forget what happened after the Prime Minister met French President Emmanuel Macron and agreed to speed up the processing of child migrant applications as part of the so-called Sandhurst Treaty. They did this with the best of intentions – yet the worst of results. Within weeks the number of migrants in Calais doubled. Fresh clashes broke out between rival groups with gunfire and violent brawls. While many adults posed as children seeking to game our compassion.
We must be compassionate – yet we must also send the right message. That we will help the needy in conflict zones, that we will take in vulnerable people from those conflict zones, yet we will not allow people to break into Britain from Calais.
The Calais Jungle brought nothing but misery to thousands of people. We must be resolute in ensuring that it will never return.
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