French foil 1,000 bids to cross via Channel – London readies emergency talks on crisis

franceCALAIS: French police said they had prevented more than 1,000 desperate attempts by migrants to get into Britain via the Channel Tunnel yesterday, as London readied emergency talks on the crisis. “More than 1,000 attempts were thwarted last night, with around 30 arrests,” the source said, adding there were no reports of migrants injured in their bid to enter the undersea tunnel linking France and Britain. Police reinforcements appeared to be having an impact, as the number of nightly attempts to penetrate the Eurotunnel premises has roughly halved since its peak at the beginning of the week. France has sent 120 additional police officers to the northern port city of Calais to stem the crisis, as the number of deaths since June reached 10. One man died in the early hours of Wednesday, apparently crushed by a lorry as he tried to make it into the tunnel.

A spokesman for Eurotunnel said there had been “much less disruption” since the reinforcements arrived to bolster the 300-strong police contingent already stationed in the city. At least four coaches of riot police were yesterday morning guarding the entrance to the tunnel, where the situation was calm.

A police source said that, while the reinforcements had helped, “the pressure of the migrants is still there” and the “situation remains difficult to deal with.” However, this source said there had been far fewer migrants managing to get onto the Eurotunnel platforms and get on the train shuttles going to England. During the night, an AFP journalist saw waves of people descend onto the railways on foot close to the Eurotunnel site only to be halted by police. At least a dozen more made it past the cordon, but ran straight into a second line of officers waiting a hundred metres (330 feet) further down the line. Around 3,000 people from countries including Syria and Eritrea are camping out in the northern French port of Calais and trying to cross into Britain illegally by clambering on board lorries and trains.

‘Swarm of people’
The crisis has become a hot political issue on both sides of the Channel and British Prime Minister David Cameron was to hold a meeting of his government’s COBRA emergency committee yesterday on the crisis. Cameron has come under fire for controversial comments on the crisis that has dominated British media all week, with furious truck drivers blocked on the English side of the channel. Speaking on a visit to Vietnam, Cameron referred to a “swarm of people” wanting to come to his country to seek better lives and find employment. Cameron’s comments earned him criticism from acting opposition Labor Party leader Harriet Harman, who said Cameron should “remember he is talking about people, not insects”.

The Refugee Council, a leading British charity which works with asylum seekers, said it was “awful, dehumanizing language from a world leader”. London has pledged £7 million (10 million Euros, $11 million) to improve fencing around the Eurotunnel rail terminal at Coquelles, northern France. Britain’s Ministry of Defense is also considering freeing up some of its land to become temporary lorry parks to help reduce long queues on the motorway in Kent, southern England, due to delays, according to British newspapers The Times and The Daily Telegraph. This is not enough for some tabloid newspapers, however. The Daily Mail urged Cameron to “send in the army” to deal with the migrants earlier this week. — AF

This article was published on 01/08/2015