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France sends more police to Calais after migrant gunfight
February 21 2018, 05:38 | Irvin Gilbert
CALAIS Police responded to major clashes between migrants near the ferry port
Four people have been shot and 18 injured after clashes erupted between migrants in the French port town of Calais Thursday.
Four Eritreans, who were shot in the neck, chest, abdomen and spine, were in critical condition, they said.
Police were searching for a 37-year-old Afghan, a suspected migrant smuggler, over the attack.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb today said he would travel to Calais to review the situation following what he called today's "serious incidents". He warned that there was likely to be further bloodshed.
The French president later travelled to Britain, where he agreed to preserve the Le Touquet treaty, which authorises British border checks on French soil.
"We received calls from young people who didn't know where to go, because the place they used to sleep was no longer accessible and were very risky", she said.
Another two migrants suffered less serious gunshot wounds and 12 others had other injuries, the local prefecture said, adding the numbers could change.
Annie Gavrilescu, France regional manager for charity Help Refugees, said: "Yesterday's clashes tragically show the true extent of the suffering these criminal gangs can cause, pitting communities against each other for gain, while displaced men, women and children in Calais are barely surviving in the most inhumane conditions".
The violence in Calais comes two weeks after Macron visited the city with a message of zero tolerance on migrants setting up camps like the sprawling "Jungle" which was razed in 2016.
Mainly young African and Afghan men, they live in camps in the woods, emerging at night to try to waylay passing trucks.
Collomb, who met with security force members and immigration officials in Calais, on Thursday, accused the traffickers who charge the migrants hefty sums to secure passage to England, of "fuelling daily violence and brawls".
An Afghan migrant is believed to have fired shots, culminating an epic brawl between the Afghan and predominately Eritrean migrants who had gathered for the meals handed out by aid groups, according to French media accounts.
The migrants have the option of going to reception centers where they can apply for asylum in Calais or elsewhere around the country. In Calais, he has expressed support for the police, whose treatment of migrants was criticized by a Human Rights Watch report that denounced their systematic use of pepper spray against migrants.
The confrontation is the worst since July 2017 when ethnic tensions boiled over, leaving 16 people injured.