UK, France tighten Calais security

2015-07-29 22:03
Migrants walk on a road outside the Eurotunnel area, in Calais, France. (Thibault Camus, AP)

Migrants walk on a road outside the Eurotunnel area, in Calais, France. (Thibault Camus, AP)

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London - The British and French governments on Wednesday vowed to tighten security around the French port of Calais following the ninth death of a migrant in the past five weeks as hundreds stormed the Channel Tunnel. 

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France will deploy 120 extra police officers in Calais, but added that operator Eurotunnel, which reported intercepting 37 000 migrants this year, "must also take responsibility" for improving security.

Cazeneuve was speaking after a man was crushed under a truck late on Tuesday as up to 1 500 migrants tried to force their way into the tunnel, which links France and Britain under the English Channel.

He said nine migrants had died in Calais since June 26, while the France Info website said Tuesday's victim was a Sudanese man, between 25 and 30 years old.

The two countries said they agreed to "strengthen co-operation in identifying and providing help for victims of human trafficking and prosecuting smugglers involved in this."

Following talks between Cazeneuve and British Home Secretary Theresa May on Tuesday, they promised to expand publicity drives in the migrants' countries of origin to discourage people from seeking asylum in France and inform them about "the realities of life for illegal migrants in the UK".

"The situation in Calais is unacceptable," British Prime Minister David Cameron said, adding that he had asked May to chair a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee to discuss the crisis.

May said Britain was committed to "urgent work" including erecting extra fencing around the port.

It is considering how to "improve security at the railhead at Coquelles, so we can ensure people are not trying to come through the tunnel", she said.

"That means some urgent work in government, but also with Eurotunnel, and Eurotunnel has a role to play here in the measures they themselves put in place to protect their trains," May said.

But the company defended its record despite "continuous pressure" on security staff, urging the two governments to make a "constructive and appropriate response" to the crisis.

Eurotunnel said it "deplores the death of another migrant" late on Tuesday, despite the company recently doubling its security personnel to 200 and spending $14.3m on security this year.

It said it had "discretely intercepted more than 37 000 migrants, who have been handed over to the law enforcement authorities" since January.

"The continuous pressure exerted every night is above and beyond that which a concessionaire can reasonably handle and requires a constructive and appropriate response from the governments," Eurotunnel said.

"In this context, Eurotunnel and its employees, who hold to their task despite the psychological pressure that weighs on them, continue to guarantee a rapid and safe Channel crossing for its millions of customers," it said.

Attempts by hundreds of migrants to enter the tunnel on Monday and Tuesday caused chaos for thousands of travellers on both sides of the Channel, with train services through the tunnel suspended early on Wednesday, but operating with delays of around 90 minutes later in the day.

The BBC quoted Keith Vaz, a member of parliament from the opposition Labour Party, as saying he saw 148 migrants on Tuesday who had entered Britain's south-eastern county of Kent, which lies opposite Calais, via the tunnel.

"I went to Kent yesterday and I saw 148 of them who had made the journey and who were delighted because they had been successful in coming here, having evaded all this security," Vaz told the broadcaster.

Calais 'lawless'

Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, said Calais was "frankly lawless" and the EU's common asylum policy was "a complete disaster".

"I'm amazed that the French authorities have not done more," Farage said, adding that Britain "should now consider calling in the army to help check vehicles for migrants" at the main Channel port of Dover.

May said in mid-July that problems with the large numbers of migrants in Calais "are clearly symptomatic of a wider issue that needs to be tackled at source and in transit countries."

Authorities must "target and disrupt the organized criminal gangs who profit from their fellow humans' misery", she said.

Read more on:    migrants  |  france

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