Cameron leads emergency meeting as migrant crisis deepens

Britain’s Cameron leads emergency meeting following latest events in Eurotunnel entrance at French port of Calais

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Migrants walk past a fence trying to go in Eurotunnel freight shuttle near the Channel Tunnel

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday led a second meeting of the “Cobra” emergency committee in order to discuss the migrant crisis concerning Eurotunnel after hundreds of migrants gathered in the French port town of Calais for the third night in a row with the aim of crossing into the UK.

A spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s office released a statement after the meeting saying that Cameron and government officials had agreed to build more fences on the Calais entrance of the Eurotunnel, increasing the border force and dog teams in Calais and creating larger parking zones for the pulled over trucks.

The Spokesperson’s statement continued, speaking about possibly decreasing the pressure of migrants in Calais by sending them back to their countries of birth and adding that “domestically, new powers to tackle illegal working and abuse of the asylum system will be sped up – the new Immigration Bill will be introduced as soon as Parliament returns.”

Ahead of the meeting, Cameron posted a video on his twitter account announcing that the government will take action to “tackle” the migrant crisis by building fences, increasing the number of security staff and employing sniffer dog teams.

Mentioning that extra staff and fences will be stationed in Calais, Cameron said that Britain has been working “hand in glove” with French authorities over the issue.

In the first meeting, British officials decided to build a new fence around Calais.

Some politicians urged the government to send military personnel to the entrances of the Eurotunnel.

Cameron previously became the target of criticism after he used the word “swarm” to describe migrants attempting to cross the Channel Tunnel.

Saying “this is going to be a difficult issue right across the summer,” Cameron noted that the migrant crisis overlapped with the summer vacation season when people use the Eurotunnel to travel to Europe.

Emphasising his determination to solve the crisis, Cameron said that “I will have a team of senior ministers who will be working to deal with it, and we rule nothing out in taking action to deal with this very serious problem.”

Cameron said “extra sniffer dogs are to be sent to provide 24-hour cover of the approaches to the Eurotunnel railhead at Coquelles and to the approaches to the ferry port at Calais.”

French government officials announced that another migrant died while trying to cross through the tunnel on Thursday, bringing the number of deaths in the tunnel to ten since June.

French officials also reported that the security officers sent to Calais after the “Cobra” meeting detected at least 200 migrants and blocked their attempt to cross the channel.

In June a video recorded by tourists travelling on a bus in Calais showed migrants trying to climb into UK-bound trucks in order to cross the channel.

Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel has demanded 9.7 million euros of compensation from France and Britain for the suspension of its services due to smuggling incidents.

Eurotunnel reported that 37,000 migrants have been detected while attempting to cross the Channel since the beginning of January. The migrants tried swimming towards Dover port and smuggling themselves into moving trucks or trains.

Calais has long attracted migrants escaping from wars and poverty and there are an estimated 3,000 refugees from Somalia, Eritrea as well as Syria living in camps near the northern French port.

TRTWorld and agencies