Refugee crisis crossing Channel
LONDON, England (CNN) -- French and British officials are to hold talks over the continuing flight of illegal refugees from France to Britain.
The discussions, to be held next Wednesday, follow attempts by hundreds of illegal immigrants from the French refugee camp at Sangatte to seek asylum in Britain after making a hazardous journey through the Channel Tunnel.
CNN's Peter Humi said the majority of those being housed by the French Red Cross at a converted warehouse in Sangatte are living in a form of limbo.
The French government is unwilling to repatriate them as many say they would face persecution in their home countries of Afghanistan, Kurdistan or Iraq.
Night after night, small groups of refugees head for the French entrance to the Channel Tunnel and ferry complex that links nearby Calais with British channel ports.
Many risk their lives by attempting to stow away on a train or truck heading to the UK while others have handed over their life savings to people smugglers.
Some refugees have even tried to walk the 35 km (22 mile) long tunnel.
Although the illegal immigrants are attracted to Britain by what they see as relatively liberal immigration policies, experts in the UK say the country is no soft touch.
Anyone attempting to smuggle refugees into Britain faces hefty fines, and social benefits for asylum seekers are more beneficial in Scandinavia.
But Ingrid Boccardi, a lecturer in European law at University College, London, said one of the key problems for the British authorities is the fact the UK does not enforce the use of identity cards.
Boccardi told CNN: "Individuals in continental Europe have to carry identity papers at all times and have to present it to police on demand.
"But this does not exist in Britain - it is not part of the country's tradition and I think the British would strongly resist any attempt to introduce these kind of checks. But this allows illegal immigrants to slip through the net much more easily."
Boccardi said an added problem was that if refugees are able to speak another language, it tends to be English, and so they seek work in Britain's black economy.
But racial tensions have overflowed in some UK cities, bringing immigration issues to the forefront of the minds of politicians and the public.
CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said Britain's Conservative opposition wants to get tough on the refugees -- whether they are genuine victims of persecution or not -- and keep them under lock and key.
Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe told CNN: "We could design a tailored reception package for the genuine people, rather than the awful hit and miss chaos they are thrown into at the moment.
"For those who are not genuine and who we are going to refuse, we know where they are and we can make sure they leave the country. That would send out a huge deterrent message."
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