LONDON (AFP) - British officials should be sent to the French port of Calais to deter a tide of illegal migrants hoping to cross the English Channel, France's interior minister suggested Wednesday.
Bernard Cazeneuve's comments came as the French authorities struggle to cope with up to 2,300 migrants in the northeastern port town and surrounding areas who want to travel to Britain.
But the idea was immediately dismissed by Britain's government, which said it was "for the French to maintain security and public order on their own soil".
In a BBC radio interview, Cazeneuve was asked if he thought British police should be sent to Calais to assist.
"It would be very useful to have more policemen here and we try to find a way of being in a common system here concerning police, in order to explain to all the immigrants in Calais that it's impossible to cross the Channel," the minister said.
"We'd be very happy if it would be possible to have more co-operation concerning this point." Cazeneuve said the two countries had had a "hard negotiation" over the issue and he had held "lots" of meetings with British Home Secretary Theresa May, his opposite number.
The comments were widely interpreted, including by the British government, as referring to a possible police deployment but the French interior ministry said Cazeneuve was referring to British civil servants, not police officers.
In response, Britain's Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said in a statement: "It is for the French to maintain security and public order on their own soil and we will not be sending police to Calais."
Britain's government has pledged £12 million (S$24.73 million) over three years to boost security at the port, including by installing security fencing.
Last week, Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart appeared before a British parliamentary committee, saying that the border should be moved on to British territory "because it's up to you to decide the migrants you want to let in or not".
Calais has been home to groups of illegal migrants since authorities closed down the Sangatte immigrant detention centre in 2002.
There has been an even bigger influx in recent months as people arrive from restive countries including Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.