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'2,000 migrants' tried to enter Channel Tunnel overnight

AFP archive picture

About 2,000 migrants tried to enter the Channel Tunnel in the French port of Calais on Monday night in a bid to reach the UK, a spokesman for the company said.


"It was the biggest incursion effort in the past month and a half," said the spokesman for Eurotunnel, which is battling the sometimes fatal efforts by migrants to reach Britain.

An official in the northern French port of Calais, who spoke on condition she not be named because she wasn't authorised to speak publicly, said police arrested 200 of the migrants. She said it was the largest single attempt by migrants to enter the site.

Six migrants were injured in their attempts to get to the UK, a local official told Reuters.

Calais, where the French end of the Channel Tunnel is located, has seen an explosion in recent years in the number of migrants, who live mainly in makeshift camps in the port city after fleeing war and poverty from countries including Eritrea, Libya and Syria.

The situation in Calais has been exacerbated by strikes by workers and farmers in the region, causing further disruption at the key port.

British police last week raised their estimate of the number of migrants in Calais to 5,000 from 3,000, with thousands of attempts made each day to board lorries and trains headed to the UK.

Authorities stopped more than 8,000 attempts at crossing the Channel over a six-week period in June and July, according to the British interior ministry.

Increasing Paris-London tension

The Calais encampments have soured relations between Britain and France, which blame each other for failing to cope with the crisis.

The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, has threatened to shut down the port if Britain does not do more to tackle the crisis. A report by the French interior ministry released earlier this month criticised a lack of cooperation between the UK and France on sharing information and resources.

Another Eurotunnel spokesman said later on Tuesday: "This is an issue that is a really for the government to sort out. We need them to stop the migrant flow from Calais but it appears to be too much for them to handle."

Last week Eurotunnel said it would demand nearly €10 million from the French and British governments to help cover the extra security costs involved in combatting the flow of migrants.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and British Home Secretary Theresa May held a UK-France summit Tuesday in London to discuss the ongoing crisis.

"The French and UK governments are working in close collaboration on this issue which affects us both," said May following the talks with Cazeneuve.

The UK minister said that intelligence and law enforcement specialists will be posted to combat the "terrible" gangs of people smugglers "making a profit out of human misery".

France and Britain also vowed to work together to return migrants, mainly to West Africa, "to ensure that people see that making this journey does not lead to them coming to Europe and being able to settle", May added.

The Conservative government minister also announced an extra £7 million (€10.8 million) for security at Coquelles, the French suburb which is home to the Eurotunnel terminal, in addition to the £15 million already pledged.


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