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David Cameron to chair crisis meeting on Calais migrants

Published 30/07/2015

Migrants breach a fence as they escape from railway police in Calais (AP)
Migrants breach a fence as they escape from railway police in Calais (AP)
Lorries queued as part of Operation Stack along the north and southbound carriageways of the M20 in Ashford

The Prime Minister will head a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee on the migrant crisis at Calais .

David Cameron, who has returned to the UK after a four-day tour of south-east Asia, will head to Westminster to chair the high-level meeting on Friday morning .

It is understood he will ask ministers and officials to see whether more can be done to address the situation at the port and the Channel Tunnel railhead at Coquelles.

The meeting comes after Mr Cameron blamed the chaos at Calais on a "swarm" of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and travelling through Europe.

French security and police were again dispatched to prevent desperate migrants from gaining illegal access to the Channel tunnel following a week of unrest in Calais.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is understood to be in the early stages of developing plans to help ease traffic congestion in the Kent area as the crisis shows no sign of abating.

An MoD source said the measures could involve using land owned by the department to free-up space on the M20.

The Daily Telegraph said MoD land around Folkestone could be used as a temporary lorry parks.

The source said a decision on the plans would be "taken in due course", adding they were led by the civilian authorities rather than military.

The situation in Calais has threatened to bring the cross-Channel haulage industry to a halt, with long queues at border control points in England and France.

As the situation rumbled into a fourth night of disorder, up to a hundred migrants roared as they steamed through police lines at a petrol station near the terminal to gain access to the tunnel.

French gendarmes and riot police at first were overwhelmed by the numbers coming at them but were able to gain control of the situation.

Officers, some with their batons drawn, formed a cordon backed up by riot vans.

But they could not prevent the men, women and children, mainly from East African and Arab countries, from bringing the road out of the tunnel in Coquelles to a standstill.

They watched as three or four teenage migrants climbed over a fence but later came back when they realised they had hit a dead end.

Afterwards Eurotunnel said its French platform was unavailable due to "security reasons".

A spokesman said: "Due to overnight activity around our French Terminal, timetables are disrupted from both directions."

Another night of drama in Calais has increased fears the UK's already under-pressure social services will be pushed to breaking point as the number of asylum seekers increases.

Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council, has met officials from the Home Office to highlight the impact of hundreds of minors arriving unaccompanied at the port of Dover.

The number of young migrants in the local authority's care has almost doubled to 605 in the last three months, leaving it with a multimillion-pound funding gap.

Mr Carter said the "massive logistical exercise" of supporting those aged under 18 who make it to the UK is putting an "enormous strain" on children's social services.

"We've got two issues," he said.

"One is having to contend with Operation Stack and the main arterial route, the M20, being closed in both directions.

"But also, local government has statutory duties to provide care for unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 and those numbers have escalated dramatically in the last four to five weeks.

"That is connected with more migrants getting on to trains and in some cases boats and presenting at Folkestone or Dover seeking asylum. If they are under 18 we have to care and provide for them.

"About a year ago it was running at about 238 unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 that we were supporting. That is now well over 600 and rising day by day, week by week."

He said the council faces a shortfall of £5.5 million in care costs.

Earlier David Cameron blamed the Calais crisis on a "swarm" of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Speaking in Vietnam, the Prime Minister said the French had sent an extra 120 police and the UK was investing in fencing and security measures at the Channel crossings in Calais and Coquelles.

However, the Government has resisted mounting calls for the army to be deployed.

Nine people have been killed attempting to cross the Channel in the last month, according to Eurotunnel.

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