Martin Robinson and Emily Kent Smith, Daily Mail, August 3, 2015
Violence erupted in Calais overnight after a weekend where around 2,500 migrants stormed the Channel Tunnel, including an organised gang of 200 filmed chanting ‘open the borders’ and demanding to be allowed to walk to Britain.
A French riot officer is in hospital today after he was left with a lacerated face and head as police were pelted with stones as 1,000 people were stopped at the fences but a record 700 got through to the main train terminal, Eurotunnel said today.
Police said this morning that around 1,700 people in total had tried to breach the 15 mile ring of steel surrounding the Channel Tunnel to get to Britain last night–around one in four of all people living in the ‘Jungle’ camp on the edge of Calais.
Eurotunnel, the company which manages the Tunnel, today demanded more action from France and Britain to stop to ‘organised’ groups of migrants storming their terminal ‘at will’ every night.
With the Prime Minister and Home Secretary on holiday, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is to chair another meeting of the Cobra emergency committee at 4pm where there will be an update on the security situation in Calais, Folkestone and Dover.
Cobra will also discuss plans for increasing the number of ferries to reduce congestion in Kent.
At the peak of the crisis a week ago around 2,000 people were storming fences and desperately tried to clamber on trains bound for Kent–a deadly gamble that has allowed at least 200 to get to Britain but also claimed the lives of nine people.
Separate reports said that on Friday and Saturday only around 400 people per night tried to get to the Channel Tunnel, mainly because of a reduced number of trains over the weekend.
Eurotunnel public affairs director John Keefe said said their Coquelles terminal was being targeted by ‘organised groups’ of migrants on a nightly basis.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One ‘we had a record of something like 700 attempts at intrusion’ overnight.
‘This is the pattern–we see the migrants moving across from Calais as dark falls, they spread out around the terminal and then, in organised groups, try to make their way on to the terminal to get near the trains,’ he said.
Attempts to improve security had simply shifted the problem, with the desperate migrants seeking any weaknesses around cross-channel transport links, he said.
‘What we saw when the Port of Calais was reinforced at the end of last year and earlier on this year was a very clear movement from the port down to the motorway, with people trying to get on to trucks.
‘Once we had secured a protected area for trucks and got them off the motorway and into our pre-check in area, we saw a very clear movement away from trucks onto the fences.
‘So there is a very clear process–as you protect one area the migrants move on to look for a weakness somewhere else.’
Mr Keefe said efforts by the Government to make the UK a less attractive destination for the migrants might work in the long term but there was a ‘major problem’ now with the ‘5,000 or so migrants living and moving around the Calais area at will’.
He said: ‘Until the governments can do something about removing that group of people and stopping that flow of people to Calais, we are going to remain in this situation.’
He added that ‘as much as you reinforce security, you might keep them out for one night and then during the daytime they go away and rest but they’ll come back again the next night’.
New footage shows how one group tore down fences and charged past police, who retaliated by spraying tear gas on Saturday night into Sunday morning. When the migrants were finally beaten back, they regrouped to form a human barricade, blocking the road to the tunnel.
Migrants are continuing to overwhelm the police guarding the Eurotunnel terminal despite the wider use of tear gas and batons. One union official said today that the officers holding the line at Calais are ‘exhausted’.
The officer hit in the face by rocks last night led to the arrest of a Sudanese man, 20, who now faces criminal charges.
‘The officer is in hospital with serious head injuries,’ said a police source in Calais, who said some 1,000 migrants were stopped outside the Tunnel’s security zone, and 700 inside it.
‘Hundreds try to pull down fences and then attempt to get on board trains,’ he said. ‘This happens night after night.’
A group trying to get to Britain were filmed ripping through defences close to the Eurotunnel terminal, suggesting they are going in larger groups to overwhelmed beefed up defences.
One migrant, who gave his name only as KD, 27, from the Sudan, said: ‘We want to go to England. We are 100. We are going to sit in the street. Tomorrow, we are going to camp in the road.’ There were also suggestions a hunger strike would be launched.
Sammy, an Ethiopian lawyer who appeared to be directing the blockade, said the migrants were becoming increasingly desperate to get to England. She added: ‘We are all one person. We all have the same idea. We are all one.’
Sammy, in near-perfect English, shouted slogans which were repeated in unison by the crowd. She said: ‘We are humans. We are not animals. We have rights. Stop the police. Open the borders–just like in Italy.’
In later chants, the crowd shouted: ‘Why do you kill us? Why did you kill my sister? We are coming to save our lives. Why do we live inside the Jungle? Where are the rights of immigrants?’
Sammy later screamed that migrants were treated as badly in France as in Libya. When an onlooker said lorry drivers were ‘just doing their job’ and should be allowed to pass, several migrants shouted: ‘No one cares about our jobs. No one care about our sleep.’
For almost four hours, police did not try to move the migrants and a tailback of dozens of freight wagons filled the road
The chaotic scene, witnessed by the Mail, came as police admitted that yesterday’s attempts to enter Britain were more ‘orchestrated’ than previously. They estimated 400 migrants had tried to enter this country that night.
The trouble began in the early hours of Sunday when 200 migrants were yards from entering the Channel Tunnel on foot after storming down barricades.
They ran towards the fences, smashing and tearing down the flimsy barriers as they went.
They were only held back by tear gas. But rather than flee completely, many began to build camp fires near the tunnel entrance to keep warm.
It was from there that the plans were made to carry out a protest on the road. After being sprayed in the face, Mohammed, 25, from Sudan, said: ‘There were 140 of us who said we would go to England together. I will try again. I want to go to England. I am scared but I will try again tomorrow.’
Earlier in the night, 40 migrants crawled through the same two holes which have been open in a fence at the Frethun suburb of Calais for weeks. Despite three army officers standing 400 yards away, no one was manning the gaps.
One man, Samwra from Libya, handed over his email address and said: ‘Add me on Facebook’ before charging towards the tracks with just a bottle of water in his hand.
Speaking to the Mail in the makeshift camp known as The Jungle, Niamat Ullah, 22, said: ‘I was an interpreter for three years for the US Army but I was threatened by the Taliban.’ Before arriving in Calais last week, Niamat travelled for five months through Turkey and Bulgaria. He said he continued to France because ‘Bulgarian people are worse than the Taliban’.
A spokesman for Eurotunnel yesterday said that efforts to access the tunnel were being carefully planned. He added: ‘What we saw looked very much like it was an organised activity.
‘We have been saying for some time that there is a degree of sophistication and organisation among migrants which shows it not simply people trying to get to UK but also organised criminal activity. It is shocking but perhaps not surprising given the scale of the problem. We need to remove the problem from the area.
‘It is a now a criminal crisis as well as a migration crisis. The governments need to act not only to protect the Channel Tunnel but break up criminal gangs.’
It came as French politicians renewed their calls for all of the migrants to be sent straight to Britain, where they will claim asylum or else disappear into the black economy.
Natacha Bouchart, the Mayor of Calais, led demands for a renegotiation of the agreement which effectively moved the UK border to Calais.
‘The British are imposing their law on our border,’ said Ms Bouchart, who called for asylum camps to be set up in the UK, adding: ‘My town is French, not British.’
There are currently some 5000 illegal migrants sleeping rough in the Calais area, many in a camp nicknamed Jungle II.
Residents play a daily game of cat-and-mouse with the police, as they try and get to the UK.
The Treaty of Le Touquet, signed in 2003, allowed UK officials to carry out passport checks and other frontier controls in France.
But former minister Xavier Bertrand, who like Ms Bouchart is in the Republican party, also said it should be scrapped.
Referring to Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Bertrand said: ‘Let the migrants go and invite him to conduct whatever policies he wants on his own island.’
Mr Bertrand has continually blamed Britain for the migrant crisis, saying: ‘They want to go to England to find a job because they know it is possible to work without an identity card.’
The Mail revealed today that as many as 70 per cent of the thousands of migrants massing at Calais are making it to Britain, MPs have been warned.
The revelation by a police chief that up to 900 illegal immigrants make it to the UK every month came amid frantic efforts by ministers to show they are finally getting a grip on the crisis.
Today, they will announce that rogue landlords who fail to check if they are renting to illegal immigrants face five years in jail. Over the weekend, a slew of announcements were made on sending CCTV, security guards and lighting to Calais, and axing some asylum-seeker handouts.
Over the weekend, gangs of migrants continued to lay siege to the Tunnel. In the early hours of yesterday, an organised group of 200 tore down fences and charged past police with tear gas, chanting ‘open the borders!’
On Friday, Downing Street was stung by criticism of its announcement that more dogs and fences would be sent to Calais. MPs and hauliers said it was no more than a ‘sticking plaster’ response. Over the weekend, the Government responded with further steps intended to show the UK is not ‘the land of milk and honey’.
The announcement on landlords–first promised in the Queen’s Speech two months ago–will require them to conduct ‘right to rent’ checks on their tenants’ immigration status before offering them a tenancy agreement.
Despite the continued mayhem over the weekend, Home Secretary Mrs May and David Cameron stuck to their position of refusing to ‘point the finger of blame’ at the French.
In a joint article with her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve, Mrs May urged other EU nations to help address the root causes of the ‘global migration crisis’.
But in France, politicians attacked the British and threatened to open the border and ‘let them all through’.
Emmanuel Agius, deputy mayor of Calais, said he would tear up the treaty which means people crossing the Channel are checked in France, rather than on arrival in Britain.
He said of Mr Cameron: ‘They will be on his territory, in the port of Dover. He poses as the saviour of the situation, on a subject he is greatly mistaken about.’