Strike, migrants disrupt channel crossings
Stowaways exploit the clogged British- bound traffic as ferries halt service from France.
LONDON — Migrants swarmed British- bound vehicles in the French port of Calais on Tuesday after a strike by ferry workers severely disrupted services across the English Channel, shutting down the crosschannel tunnel and stranding thousands of passengers.
The ferry strike diverted vehicles to the Channel Tunnel, causing a massive traffic jam that was exacerbated when strikers entered part of the tunnel and set f ires, helping to sow chaos.
Images broadcast on television showed large groups of migrants, most from North Africa and the Middle East, running toward slow- moving or sta- tionary trucks and clambering on board in the hope of traveling to Britain through the tunnel undetected.
The British Foreign Off ice issued a warning to all drivers along that route to keep their doors locked and secure any unattended vehicles to keep people from illegally entering the country.
“The suspension [ of services] meant there were lots of vehicles having to queue on the motorway, and [ that] is an invitation to migrants to climb on board,” Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe said.
Keefe said some of the migrants had broken into trucks, threatened drivers and damaged the goods on board in an attempt to get into Britain without papers.
“Pretty much everything they are doing is illegal,” he said.
“We will spend most of this evening pulling mi- grants off trucks. … Our requirement is to make sure that no one is on board when they go into the tunnel.”
The wildcat strike was carried out by MyFerryLink workers who are concerned about job losses.
They blocked ferry traffic during two separate actions Tuesday — for a few hours in the early morning and then later in the afternoon, said Eurotunnel, which operates the Channel Tunnel.
The action caused severe gridlock for vehicles either trying to make their way to the port or onto the Channel Tunnel bound for England, as well as for drivers trying to make French- bound journeys on the English side of the channel.
Later in the day, the workers also broke into the Eurotunnel terminal, got onto the tracks, threw rubble around and set f ire to tires, causing huge plumes of smoke, Keefe said.
Eurotunnel trains carry vehicles through the tunnel. Its service was brief ly suspended but was running again by evening, with some delays.
However, Eurostar, which runs a high- speed passenger train through the tunnel, said all its services would be suspended until the morning, bringing disruption to passengers trying to board at stations in Paris and London.
Ferry traffic resumed from the port by evening.
The day’s events shone a new spotlight on a migrant camp at Calais, which has swelled to an estimated 3,000 people.
“Calais is not the destination,” the city’s deputy mayor, Philippe Mignonet, told the BBC. “They go through Calais to get to England, and I wish them good luck.”
A BARRICADE of burning tires blocks access to the Channel Tunnel in Calais, the port in northern France where MyFerryLink workers were on strike.