UK & World News
Syrian Migrants End Calais Port Stand-Off
More than 60 Syrians who blocked a gangway at a ferry port in Calais demanding they be allowed into Britain have ended their protest.
The group had occupied the footbridge at the terminal in northern France since Wednesday but left after British officials refused their request to be admitted to the UK en masse.
Two of the Syrians had climbed onto the ferry terminal roof and were threatening to jump off if their demands are not met, while 20 of the group had reportedly begun a hunger strike.
French officials had offered the illegal immigrants the right to seek asylum there, but the group said they wanted to start a new life in Britain after being treated "worse than animals" in France.
Denis Robin, the prefect of the Pas-de-Calais region, said British officials had indicated they would not consider entry for the entire group "without any checks or examinations of the different cases".
"However, the representatives of the Border Force said that they are open to examining on a case-by-case basis if there are Syrian nationals with family on British territory."
Around 50 riot police moved in early this morning to try and clear the refugees from the footbridge but they backed off when two of them climbed on top of a nearby building.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has pledged to fast-track the asylum applications of Syrians fleeing the civil war.
But the refugees, most of whom arrived in Calais a month ago, have been critical of their treatment.
"We thought that France was the country where human rights are respected," said Tarik, a 19-year-old engineering student from the southern Syrian city of Deraa.
"But we live outside like dogs, hunted down by the police, we see we are not welcome, how can we seek asylum here?"
He said he was convinced he would find "more humanity" in Britain and eventually bring over his mother and younger brothers currently living in Egypt.
Ali, 38, said that although President Francois Hollande had taken a strong stand against President Bashar al Assad's regime for allegedly using chemical weapons, the French were not welcoming at all.
"Why does [Mr Hollande] say one thing and the police another?" he said, adding that he had spent £8,700 (?9,500) to come to a country where the "President said 'we must help Syrians'".
"Here even animals are better treated than us," he said.
The group had even written a letter to British Home Secretary Theresa May demanding to speak to an official from her department.
"We have the right to claim asylum in England, but how do we get there? There is not a legal way to cross," they wrote.
"David Cameron has pledged to 'lead the world' on aid for Syrian refugees. The situation of the Syrians protesting in the port of Calais offers a perfect opportunity to support Syrian refugees at our borders, turning this rhetoric into action.
"Failure to do so will open the Government to accusations of hypocrisy."
After the protesters had dispersed on Friday, Mariam Guerey, of Secours Catholique charity, said the Syrians were "shocked" by the British refusal to take them in.
"They had another image of England. For them, this is the dream," she said.
Other charity officials said they expected the would-be asylum seekers were now likely to spend the night sleeping on the streets of Calais and in the future could try to cross the Channel illegally.
The UN refugee agency has said 17 countries, including France, have agreed to receive quotas of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.
France has had only 850 registered demands for asylum from Syrians since the start of this year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said late last month.