HOME Secretary Theresa May yesterday demanded urgent improvements to security at Calais as a police commissioner demanded Gurkhas be deployed to head off migrants trying to get into the UK.
Concerns are mounting that the UK is unable to cope the numbers of immigrants attempting to cross the Channel.
I can confirm that one migrant died last night after 1,500 tried to storm the EurotunnelEurotunnel spokeswoman
After chairing an emergency meeting of Cobra (the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A), Mrs May admitted a number of immigrants had entered the UK illegally because of the ongoing crisis in France and said more needed to be done to prevent them entering through the Channel Tunnel.
Her comments came as the M20 in Kent became a clogged up car park for vehicles attempting to cross via the Channel Tunnel or by ferry from Dover.
The crisis has come at the peak of the English holiday season and caused chaos on both sides of the Channel. Kevin Hurley, the police and crime commissioner for Surrey, called for Gurkha soldiers, currently stationed in his county, to be deployed to tackle the immigrants attempting to enter via Calais.
Concerns increased as Eurotunnel revealed that so far this year it has blocked 37,000 migrants trying to make their way to Britain, and that in the past month nine people have died trying to cross the Channel.
The operator said that on Monday night 2,000 attempts had been made by people to storm the tunnel, and that it had fielded 1,500 more last night – when a man believed to be a Sudanese national was crushed under a truck.
Last night an Egyptian was being treated in Calais after being electrocuted while trying to illegally board the Eurostar.
It is thought that up to 148 people made it to the UK after Monday’s incursion.
Mrs May confirmed “a number” of people crossed the border, adding that the French and British governments needed to work with Eurotunnel to address the issue. Speaking after the Cobra meeting, Mrs May said: “Crucially what we are looking at now is improving security at the railhead at Coquelles, so we can ensure people are not trying to come through the tunnel.
“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.”
However, a spokesman for Groupe Eurotunnel, which manages and operates the Channel Tunnel, said that since the arrival of migrants in the area around Calais, it has invested more than €160 million (£113m), including €13m in the first six months of 2015, in physical resources – fences, cameras, infra-red detectors – and personnel.
He added: “These considerable investments have already been followed in the second half of the year with new fencing around the platforms. Security patrol staff has been doubled to reach 200 employees, including sniffer dog patrols.”
The spokesman also said Eurotunnel has kept the Intergovernmental Commission for the Channel Tunnel and authorities informed, over several months, about the explosion in the number of migrants.
“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,” he added.
Mrs May said the government was pressing for rapid installation of the new security fencing at Coquelles.
When asked if the military should be used, she replied: “This is about ensuring we get that security fencing up, it’s about working with Eurotunnel to ensure we have got the best measures in place.”
French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced France would be temporarily deploying two mobile units, or 120 additional police staff, in Calais “in order to contribute to the security of the site”.
Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “At the end of the day, sending an extra 140 police officers into Calais is not going to solve the problem.”