Strike, mi­grants dis­rupt chan­nel cross­ings

Stow­aways ex­ploit the clogged Bri­tish- bound traf­fic as fer­ries halt ser­vice from France.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Christina Boyle Boyle is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

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.”

Philippe Huguen AFP/ Getty I mages

A BAR­RI­CADE of burn­ing tires blocks ac­cess to the Chan­nel Tun­nel in Calais, the port in north­ern France where MyFer­ryLink work­ers were on strike.

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