UK and France pledge resources to deal with Calais migrant crisis

Death of refugees in Eurotunnel has pushed two countries to work together more closely

Migrants walk near the road where lorries pass after leaving their hiding spot at the Eurotunnel site in Calais. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Migrants walk near the road where lorries pass after leaving their hiding spot at the Eurotunnel site in Calais. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

 

Britain and France have pledged to increase resources to help deal with the escalating migrant crisis in Calais, as thousands of migrants try to enter Britain through the tunnel in the northern French port town.

The operator of the Channel Tunnel appealed to both governments to intervene yesterday after a Sudanese refugee was killed on Tuesday night. It is believed that the man, in his 20s, was crushed by a lorry exiting the tunnel.

Some 2,000 migrants entered the freight terminal on Monday night, a spokesman for Eurotunnel said, and about 1,500 people attempted to board vehicles on Tuesday night.

The death of the Sudanese migrant brings to nine the number of people who have died trying to enter Britain through the Channel Tunnel since June. An unspecified number were also injured on Tuesday night.

British home secretary Theresa May, who chaired an emergency meeting of Cobra yesterday, said Britain had pledged an extra £7 million (€9.8 million) to improve security in the area, including providing the same fencing used at the Nato summit in Wales last year.

Reducing numbers

EuropeAfrica

She said Britain was working with France on ways to return people to west Africa, as well as deal with the criminal gangs that organise people-smuggling.

Meanwhile, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that an extra 120 police officers would be dispatched to Calais to help secure the Eurotunnel site.

France will “increase the resources dedicated to securing the border and particularly the tunnel,” Mr Cazeneuve said yesterday. He added that the situation in Calais was a “painful humanitarian problem”.

Calais has long been a site for migrants hoping to reach the UK through the English channel. Those who are seeking asylum have the right to have their request assessed in the countries of the European Union. But the British government has stressed it has the right to return so-called economic migrants who are not technically asylum seekers.

Britain, along with Ireland, is not part of the Schengen free travel area.

The EU has struggled to respond to the migration crisis, which has intensified this year as tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers try to make their way into Europe from northern Africa and the Middle East.

EU justice ministers meeting in Luxembourg last week agreed to relocate a little over 32,000 people from Syria and Eritrea across the EU, though the agreed figure fell short of the 40,000 targeted by the European Commission.

Irish acceptance

Frances Fitzgerald

Migration has emerged as a key political issue in Britain in recent years and is likely to feature heavily in the forthcoming referendum campaign on Britain’s membership of the EU. The Conservative government has said it wants to curb the number of migrants coming into Britain each year.

Eurotunnel has demanded that the French and British governments pay the €10 million it says it has spent on increased security to deal with the issue.

The situation has led to travel chaos for motorists in both countries, during what is one of the busiest periods of the year for cross-Channel travel.

Lorries have been parked in the motorway lanes leading up to the tunnel entrance in Britain in an operation police have termed “operation stack”.

Lorries have also been bunched together on lanes leading up to the tunnel in Calais in a bid to reduce the possibility of migrants entering trucks illegally.