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Protesting sailors halt travel at Channel Tunnel, Calais port

A protesting sailor sits near burning tires blocking access to the Channel Tunnel.
A protesting sailor sits near burning tires blocking access to the Channel Tunnel. PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP
2 min

Train service between France and Britain has been suspended, Eurotunnel officials said Tuesday, after protesting French sailors entered the tracks and torched tyres to block access to nearby roads. Ferry services have also been halted.

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"We have been notified that protesters have gained access to rail tracks, which means that for safety reasons Eurotunnel have to temporarily suspend their service," the firm said in a statement.

Police broke up a sit-in on the A16 motorway leading up to the Channel Tunnel. Two protesters were hospitalised in the operation.

Demonstrators burned tyres and crates, sending thick black smoke into the air as traffic jams stretched several kilometres.

The sailors, from the French ferry company MyFerryLink, were protesting plans to sell two of their ferries to rival firm DFDS.

"It's out of the question that DFDS takes our boats. Never, never," exclaimed the head of the main union on strike, Eric Vercoutre, who took up position with around 100 colleagues at the entrance to the tunnel in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

"We've been betrayed," he said.

A spokeswoman for Eurotunnel said it understood the concerns of the port workers.

“We hope that there will be suitable job proposals tomorrow,” she said of a meeting planned for Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain was in close contact with French authorities. Britain issued travel advice that said migrants were using the disruption to try to board queuing vehicles.

“There are large numbers of illegal migrants in and around Calais who may seek to enter the UK illegally. Although local police patrols have been reinforced, you should keep vehicle doors locked in slow-moving traffic and secure your vehicle when it is left unattended,” the Foreign Office said.

“We are seeing the usual phenomenon – some migrants are trying to climb into lorries stopped in traffic jams on the motorway leading to the tunnel,” the police press office in Arras said. “They’re trying to hide in lorries in particular.”

The incident is the latest flare-up involving migrants who have amassed around Calais port, hoping to get into Britain.

That is part of a wider migration crisis facing Europe, the target of tens of thousands of would-be refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa or of others trying to escape poverty in their home countries.

The issue is due to be discussed at a summit of European leaders in Brussels from Thursday.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

 

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