FRANCE will deport Afghan migrants rounded up this week in the port of Calais if they fail to qualify for asylum and refuse to return home voluntarily, the immigration minister said today.

French riot police rounded up 276 people, most of them Afghans, in a raid on Wednesday on the camp known as the “jungle”, used by hundreds of migrants as a launching pad to try to illegally cross the Channel to Britain.

Nearly half the migrants identified themselves as minors and were taken to shelters, while the adults were taken to detention centres and were to be offered a chance to apply for asylum or money for a voluntary return home. “There will be forced return for people who are neither covered by asylum law nor by voluntary return procedures,” Immigration Minister Eric Besson told France 24 television. “The president says we have to apply this it everywhere, including in countries where it is sensitive, on the condition that people’s protection is assured and that they are not in physical danger,” Mr Besson said.

Welcoming the raid on the Calais “jungle”, President Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday that France would work with Britain to “organise the return of people whose situation is unlawful”.

According to Pierre Henry, head of the asylum charity France Terre d’Asile, 20 of the adults arrested in Calais have since been released. Forty-three have so far applied for asylum with more expected to follow suit.