January 25, 2016 / 2:10 PM / 2 years ago

French official calls on Paris to send troops to Calais over migrants

A French riot policeman stops migrants in a field near Calais, France, as migrants gather in the hopes of attempting to board lorries and making their way across the Channel to Britain, January 21, 2016.Pascal Rossignol

CALAIS (Reuters) - The head of France's northern region on Monday called on Paris to send troops to Calais to restore order there after migrants stormed the port and boarded a British ferry.

Thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have gathered at the northern coastal town in the past year, using it as a stopover on their way to Britain - a ferry trip across the Channel.

Around 200 refugees burst into the port on Saturday after a demonstration of support for migrants living in a slum nearby and some of boarded the front deck of a British ferry.

"Only the army is capable of restoring security to Calais," Xavier Bertrand, regional head of Nord Pas-de-Calais, told reporters. "We don't want a tragedy in Calais, but that is exactly what is going to happen if there is not a stronger reaction."

Many live in squalid conditions particularly in a slum area near Calais called "the jungle" where around 4,000 people are camped.

Bertrand also urged President Francois Hollande to visit Calais to witness the situation there for himself and he also took a swipe at Britain, saying it was in large part responsible for the problems.

"The migrants, they want to travel to England, they know that you can work without papers in England. They are underpaid. As long as the English don't change the rules, we going to have problems," Bertrand said. "Either the English budge, genuinely and seriously, or we give them back their border."

Reporting by Pierre Savary; writing by John Irish; editing by Richard Balmforth

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