PARIS — France’s government is willing to consider emergency lodging for dozens of Syrian refugees locked in a standoff with security forces in a northern port in hope of reaching Britain, a government official said Friday.
Britain dispatched extra border agents to northern France as tensions among the migrants grew. Two scaled a building in the port city of Calais, flailing their arms about and threatening to jump, if their demands to reach Britain were not met.
“If a request for asylum on (French) territory is made, the government of France is entirely inclined to organize emergency lodging for these Syrian citizens while their requests are examined,” Denis Robin, the state administrator in the region, told reporters.
Mael Galisson of the aide group Migrant Services Platform said the migrants have occupied a gangway at the Calais ferry terminal since Wednesday, and police moved to evacuate them on Friday. Police backed off after the two Syrians climbed onto the roof and threatened to jump. Galisson said police were negotiating with the group of about 55 Syrians, some of whom are on a hunger strike.
Television images showed several dozen refugees sitting on the ground, with blue tarpaulins draped over them and displaying protest signs, one reading: “We want to start anew in England, pls (please).”
Britain’s Border Force issued a statement saying the standoff was for France to resolve.
For years migrants have swarmed Calais, hoping to sneak across the English Channel to Britain, which is seen as an easier place than France to make a life.
France and Britain have been among the most vocal critics of the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria, where at least 100,000 people have died in a civil war.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.