CALAIS CRISIS

There’s no end in sight to the chaos at the Channel Tunnel

A man attempting to cross undetected from France to the UK was killed last night, becoming the latest migrant to die while making the increasingly difficult crossing. The migrants have massed in makeshift camps around the French port of Calais, and try to get to Britain by jumping onto trains, stowing away on ferries, or climbing aboard trucks that stream through the Channel Tunnel that runs under the sea between England and France.

The man, who was reportedly hit by a truck, was of Sudenese origin. As many as 5,000 migrants—many from Sudan as well as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Afghanistan—are now camped near Calais, and at least nine have died while trying to cross to the UK, according to the Guardian. The migrants are seeking jobs and stability in Britain’s stronger economy.

On some nights, as many as 2,000 separate crossing attempts are made, with some individuals making several attempts in one session. Footage shows migrants trying to climb onto moving vehicles in daylight, and sometimes being beaten back by police. Truck drivers say they don’t know how to cope with the constant attempts to open and climb into their vehicles. Huge fences have been built around motorways to try and keep migrants away from queuing traffic.

An aerial view shows a field named "new jungle" with tents and makeshift shelters where migrants and asylum seekers stay in Calais, northern France, July 21, 2015. Around 3,000 migrants, fleeing war, political turmoil and poverty are camped in Calais and make daily attempts to board lorries and trains heading towards Britain. The problem has been exacerbated in recent weeks by a French ferry workers' strike which has blocked traffic around the port.    REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol - RTX1L8N5
The Calais camp and new fence. (Reuters/Pascal Rossignol)

Partly because it is an island with no land crossing from the rest of Europe other than the Tunnel, the UK has been able to restrict the flow of some migrant groups into its territory more effectively than other European countries. It has also taken a hardline view of anyone who enters the country without permission, accepting fewer asylum claims (pdf) than many of its European neighbors. The UK’s attitude to the Calais crisis has been to try and tighten security to protect freight and passenger vehicles, but not to get involved in the camps themselves.

“It is, of course, the responsibility of the French authorities to police French soil,” Theresa May, the UK home secretary, said this month, but added that the UK and French governments were working closely together. A combination of local worker strikes, and the crossing attempts by migrants, have mainly affected the UK side of the channel by causing travel delays, long traffic jams and spoiled goods thanks to the unexpected delays. The British government this week pledged an extra £7 million ($11 million) for security at Coquelles, where the terminal for Eurotunnel, which operates the crossing, is located. This is in addition to £15 million already committed.

While the governments of France and the UK say they are coordinating closely to tackle the crisis, the mayor of Calais and Eurotunnel execs have demanded more help.

The camps and crossing attempts at Calais are one of the most stark reminders of the migration crisis facing the whole of Europe. Countries on the Mediterranean like Greece, Malta, and Italy already house thousands of migrants in makeshift accommodation. Migrants attempting to cross the sea to Europe from countries like Libya have been dying in increasing numbers over the past year.

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