'Sangatte II' immigrant welcome centre is torched by arsonists: Police suspect furious Calais residents

Arsonists have attacked a new 'Sangatte' welcome centre which was due to open for UK-bound migrants in Calais this week.

They set fire to prefabricated units which were due to house hot showers close to the town's ferry port.

A Calais police spokesman said: 'A great deal of damage was done. One of two structures earmarked for use as a shower block were badly damaged by fire.'


A Calais cinema board advertising 'Welcome', a film telling the story of a refugee in Calais trying to get to Britain

He added: 'It was due to be part of a unit containing toilets and bathrooms.

'We have launched an inquiry into this act of vandalism and arson.

'Our fear is that local people opposed to the setting up of the centre may be responsible.'


The film promted the French government into announcing the opening of new 'Sangatte' like facilities for the high number of immigrants in the town

Earlier this month French administrative judges approved the opening of the centre on the Rue Jacques Prevert, next to the Marcel-Doret industrial estate.

It was immediately dubbed 'Sangatte II' after the former Red Cross centre which attracted thousands of illegals before it was demolished in 2002.

The centre is a few hundred yards from the site of the notorious 'Jungle' - a shanty town full of mainly Afghans which was destroyed in September as part of a plan to make Calais 'water-tight' to illegal migrants.

France's immigration minister Eric Besson had pledged to rid Calais of the hundreds of foreigners trying to get to the UK, where they claim asylum or disappear into the underground economy.

But soon afterwards Calais council signed an agreement with the charity Secours Catholique (Catholic Help) to provide facilities to migrants arriving in the town. There were fears of a humanitarian tragedy involving those sleeping rough as temperatures fell below zero.

Many attacked the U-turn, with Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green saying: 'The only result of this will be to encourage more potential illegal immigrants to try to break our laws.'

Calais residents were also opposed to the building but local authorities said they had no option but toagreeto thecentre, whichwillbeopento allmigrants.

A spokesman for the Pas de Calais Green Party described the arson attack as 'a deliberate act aimed at putting refugees into an even more dangerous position'.

It is not clear how soon the centre will now open.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now