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Calais chaos unacceptable - Cameron

Published 24/06/2015

The scene at St Pancras International railway station in London, after Eurostar suspended all services due to migrant unrest in Calais
The scene at St Pancras International railway station in London, after Eurostar suspended all services due to migrant unrest in Calais

The chaotic scenes in Calais where hundreds of migrants have tried to climb on board UK-bound lorries are "totally unacceptable", Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

French police reportedly found 350 migrants hidden in cars and trucks in just four hours this morning - a day after the Channel Tunnel was forced to shut following disruption caused by striking ferry workers.

Home Secretary Theresa May said British and French authorities had stopped "significant numbers" of migrants from entering the UK in the last two days, while Mr Cameron called for both countries to work together, insisting there was "no point either side trying to point the finger of blame".

As migrants risked their lives attempting to clamber on to UK-bound vehicles today, one Syrian man fleeing chemical attacks in his home country said: "My life would be better if I get to England."

While services through the tunnel returned to normal today, tensions continued to mount in Calais where an angry confrontation broke out between two truckers and migrants after one tried to break into a stationary lorry.

One migrant was seen to climb on to a lorry's roof, while two others managed to break into the back of a slow-moving HGV with the help of a third migrant.

Polish trucker Martin Szczygielski, 33, said the migrant situation had reached crisis point, and lorry drivers faced daily threats of intimidation and fines.

He said: "My friend had four immigrants in his truck and the police gave him a £2,000 fine, but it was not his fault because he checked the trailer. It's very hard and dangerous to earn a living here."

During Prime Minister's questions today, Mr Cameron said migrants must be better documented and fingerprinted but "a lot of that needs to happen in Italy where they land".

More must be done to "break the link" between migrants getting in a boat and heading for Europe and as well as making it tougher for illegal immigrants heading to Britain, he added.

He told MPs: "It is totally unacceptable scenes that we have all been witnessing in the last day."

A £12 million deal last September saw the UK invest in improved security measures, but Mr Cameron said more officers could be sent to Calais.

"In talks with the Home Secretary this morning we have been looking at whether we can put more personnel and, indeed, sniffer dog teams on that side of the Channel to make a difference," he said

"There is also more work being done in terms of installing fencing, not just around the port at Calais but also around the Eurostar and Eurotunnel entrance.

"All these things can make a difference and we should work with the French very closely. There is no point either side trying to point the finger of blame at each other.

"This is a strong partnership that we have in place and we should keep it that way."

Eurotunnel, which was operating extra freight services today to clear the backlog from yesterday, said migrants had been attempting all day today to get on to trucks slowing down on the outskirts of Calais.

Cross-Channel ferry services, severely disrupted by the closure of the port of Calais yesterday, were operating normally today, but police said that Operation Stack, in which parts of the M20 in Kent are used for lorries queuing for the port of Dover, would be likely to remain in place for the rest of today.

The worsening migrant plight near the Port of Calais has seen numbers camped there swell to more than 3,000 since April.

Aid workers have reported a "catastrophic" situation, with predictions that some 2,000 more migrants displaced from war-torn countries including Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan could arrive over the summer.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who regularly travels by car through Calais, said: " The UK has become the number one destination of choice due to the size of our employment black market and the failure to deport 75% of caught illegal immigrants.

"David Cameron's words today will not deter a single illegal immigrant from trying to break into a car or a lorry."

Ten migrants were found in the back of an articulated lorry parked in a truck park in Folkestone, Kent, at around 4.30pm.

A Kent Police spokesman said: "They were all fine and taken by police to Dover Immigration Centre and are now under their care."

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