Eurotunnel Strike 'Exploited' by Migrants in Calais

Support migrant centric journalism today and donate

Services through the Channel Tunnel were suspended on Tuesday, 23 June as workers staged a strike at the port of Calais in France. The strike led to widespread travel chaos, with many Eurostar services cancelled. Part of the M20 motorway had to be closed, adding to the travel disruption.

Eurotunnel, which operates the Channel Tunnel, said that 'many of those involved in strike action accessed the tracks.' The strike has ended, with ferry services and Eurotunnel trains carrying passenger vehicles, resuming later on Tuesday. Eurostar trains have also resumed.

Migrants trying to board trucks

Eurotunnel representatives say that hundreds of migrants tried to capitalise on the chaos by boarding trucks that were bound for the UK; attempting to climb aboard lorries caught in slow-moving traffic.

Lorry drivers had been advised to check that all trailer doors were secured using padlocks and to remain in close proximity to other drivers. It was also recommended that they avoid stopping within 60 miles of the port, to prevent any of the estimated 3,000 migrants living rough in Calais from boarding their vehicles in order to cross the channel.

Strike action over job cuts

Strikers from the company, MyFerryLink, blockaded the port of Calais in the early of hours of Tuesday morning, staging a protest about job losses. The strike brought ferry traffic to a halt, with many drivers forced to use the Eurotunnel, resulting in huge queues forming on roads into Calais. Eurostar officials confirmed that port workers were protesting about staff restructuring.

The tunnel also had to be closed after protesters accessed the tracks and started a fire using tyres, said Eurotunnel. The strike ended early Tuesday evening, with Eurotunnel passenger services resuming at 17.50 UK time. However, services were experiencing severe delays in both directions.

Highest number of migrants ever

Eurotunnel said that migrant numbers in the Calais area had been the 'highest ever'; footage shot by a helicopter at the scene showed large groups gathering at the side of the road. Some of the immigrants were seen chasing after a moving lorry, attempting to board it from behind and also fighting to be in the best part of the truck.

Some migrants were seen engaging in conversation with lorry drivers. A lorry driver had to chase away a group seen trying to break into his trailer. One individual ran down the middle of the motorway to secure a door behind migrants who had already boarded one of the lorries at the scene. All this was taking place, despite an increase in local police patrols around Calais.

Eyewitness, James Kleinfeld, said: "I must have counted approximately 50 people loitering at the junction just after the exit from the Channel Tunnel train station."

Illegal Immigrant Crossings prevented

According to UK Home Office figures, approximately 19,000 attempted Channel crossings have been stopped so far this year [2015], which is over 50% more compared with the same period in 2014.

Philippe Mignonent, the deputy mayor of Calais said: "The UK government has to take more responsibility for the situation. Local authorities in Calais have basically been left to police the UK's borders."

A Home Office statement said: "We're working with our French counterparts to strengthen the security of the border. Plus, we're providing funding to tighten security and infrastructure at ports in Northern France and Belgium."