Passengers facing delays of up to three hours as migrants adopt new tactics to attempt to breach security and reach Britain
Eurotunnel customers faced hours of delays on Tuesday morning after refugees rushed the terminal in Calais in a desperate bid to break through security.
Waiting time for passenger services in Folkestone was about two hours while the delay in Calais was about three hours. Eurotunnel said it was unable to sell tickets to passengers without reservations at either end.
Eurotunnel has suffered disruption to its services throughout the summer, and now faces new tactics from refugees and migrants, whose numbers have swelled to 6,000 in the makeshift camps outside Calais, known as the Jungle.
Eurotunnel said hundreds of refugees had tried to breach the 20-mile perimeter in recent days, in diversionary tactics. These large groups draw police and security personnel away from sensitive access points – roads and tracks near the terminal – that smaller groups then try to breach. The longer nights provide greater opportunity for refugees to operate under the cover of darkness.
“These major surges in the early hours overcome security personnel and then they have to spend a couple of hours clearing the tracks and platforms,” said John Keefe, a Eurotunnel spokesman.
The mayor of Calais has said troops may be needed to cope with the rising number of migrants trying to reach Britain. Natacha Bouchart said the population of the shanty camps had doubled to about 6,000 in recent weeks, adding that lawlessness in the camps was untenable.
At least 15 people have died in or near the tunnel since the start of the cross-Channel migrant crisis at the beginning of the summer. One person died last week after being hit by a freight train at the Channel tunnel’s Coquelles terminal.
The surge in migrants attempting to cross the Channel has led to increasing security at the terminal, including extra fencing and the deployment of more border force search and dog teams.
“The groups in the camp consist of very intelligent people trying to work out how to overcome obstacles and outwit the police,” said Keefe. “These are the desperate throes of people as they see the exits closing. They will get through the fencing, either through, over or under. They are very resourceful. These 6,000 people have a single goal. We’re not convinced that the problem will ease over the winter as people are arriving in Calais via new routes in eastern Europe.”
The Home Office said it had recently spent £7m on security measures at the Coquelles terminal and continued to work with the French authorities to monitor the situation.
The EU has agreed a plan – resisted by Hungary and several other eastern European countries – to share out 120,000 refugees among its members, a small proportion of the 700,000 migrants the International Organisation for Migration expects to reach Europe’s borders from the Middle East, Africa and Asia this year. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, says more than 10,000 people are stranded in Serbia, with more on the way but nowhere to go.