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14th Aug 2020

UK offers €10mn for security after migrants storm Channel Tunnel

  • The UK is stepping up security around Calais to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel Tunnel (Photo: Jey OH photographie)

The UK has offered France some €10 million to help build a new fence in Calais after there were around 2000 attempts by migrants to enter the Eurotunnel Monday.

A French police source told AFP that some 2,000 attempts were made on Monday (27 July).

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The source noted the figure did not represent the number of migrants but only the number of attempts.

French police said another 1,500 attempts were made on Tuesday night (28 July), with one migrant from Sudan killed after being crushed by a lorry, reports Le Monde.

UK home secretary Theresa May, for her part, on Tuesday announced the extra funds alongside her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve.

“The UK government will be putting in up to £7 million more to ensure the security of the Eurotunnel railhead”, she said.

The money will help pay for a new 2km fence at the Eurotunnel site at Coquelles.

The UK has already paid around €5 million to put up barriers at the site.

The Eurotunnel company, which manages the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France, says it wants millions more in compensation from both governments because of the disruptions.

The latest incursion caused up to 30-minute delays on the French side for passengers wanting to cross the Channel Tunnel and up to a one-hour delay on the UK side.

But similar disruptions have been caused by an on-going spat between ferry staff from France's MyFerryLink and the Eurotunnel group.

Last week, French ferry workers blocked access to the Channel Tunnel terminal after setting fire to tyres.

An estimated 3,000 migrants are camped in and around the port, known as the 'jungle'.

Most migrants are fleeing persecution and conflict from places like Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Eritreans have a high chance of getting asylum in most member states.

But France last year only approved 15 percent of Eritrean applications, according to the EU’s statical office Eurostat.

Afghan asylum applications in France fared much better with an above 80 percent approval rate.

Those unable to pay smugglers opt to take matters in their own hands and attempt to scramble onto the back of lorries. Many risk their lives in the process.

Earlier this month near Calais, a body was found on the roof a freight train heading to the UK.

French police do not record the death or injury incidents.

But a Guardian investigation last year revealed at least 15 migrants in Calais had died in their attempts to reach Britain. Another nine perished trying to enter the tunnel since June.

Aid agencies say the situation has since become worse with some describing the squalid living conditions and desperation of the migrants camped around the port “as catastrophic”.

In late March, French authorities forced over 1000 migrants to move from makeshift camps around Calais to a former garbage dump around seven kilometres from town centre.

French NGOs in April denounced the move. The new state-sanctioned site has no running water, no electricity, and no toilet facilities.

“This must be one of the worst refugee camps in the world. Even in African camps they have water and toilets. It’s just a wasteland”, an aid worker told the Guardian in April.

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