Philip Hammond defends 'marauding migrants' comment

Posted On: 
10th August 2015

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has defended his description of migrants in Calais as “marauding”.

Recent weeks have seen repeated incursions around the Coquelles area by migrants trying to reach the UK via the Channel Tunnel.

Mr Hammond drew criticism from Amnesty International and the Labour party when he told the BBC yesterday: “So long as there are large numbers of pretty desperate migrants marauding the area, there always will be a threat to the tunnel’s security.”

Today Mr Hammond explained how his choice of words made sense “in the context of the question”.

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“We have a significant number of people around the Calais areas moving in numbers. And because they are moving en masse in numbers they can pose a threat to the security of the Channel Tunnel, which was the context in which the question was asked,” he told a press conference during a visit to South Korea.

He also sought to draw attention to the “human dimension of this problem and the specific challenge of dealing with the four or five thousand people who are frankly stranded in the Calais area and many of whom are pretty desperate”.

Mr Hammond’s defence comes after Downing Street refused to repeat his choice of the word “marauding,” although it did say some migrants were “threatening” people in Calais.

“It is a fact that there have been tens, if not more, of migrants around the tunnel entrance at Coquelles every night seeking to threaten people there and to break through our fences and to enter the UK illegally,” the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said.

“The point that the Foreign Secretary was making which the Prime Minister shares is the scale of this problem – indeed, the Prime Minister talked about it himself recently,” she added.

Amnesty International has described Mr Hammond’s comments as “shameful”, while Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn accused him of “scaremongering” and said he should “think more carefully about what he says”.

David Cameron also came under fire recently when he described migrants crossing the Mediterranean as a "swarm".