Migrant bids to enter Channel Tunnel falling

Police reinforcements and new security barriers at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel in Calais have led to falling numbers of entry attempts by migrants trying to reach Britain, officials said on Monday.

Migrant bids to enter Channel Tunnel falling
Migrants in Calais trying to get to the UK. Photo: AFP
Having seen peaks as high as 1,700 attempts at the start of the month, there were only 149 bids to enter the tunnel on Sunday night and 130 the
previous night, the sources said.
“It's the result of supplementary security measures, building work and reinforcements from both states,” said a Eurotunnel spokesperson.
An extra 120 police were sent to the Calais site in northern France in late July, adding to the existing 300 police and 200 Eurotunnel guards.
New wire fences have also been installed around the entrance for vehicles boarding Eurotunnel trains, where migrants generally try to break in.
Aid groups have also emphasised that the situation is simply returning to normal after an exceptional period.
The migrants had taken advantage of the chaos caused by strikes around the nearby ferry port, which had forced many more trucks to use the Eurotunnel and putting the strain on security systems.
The lack of crossings also means that more migrants are stuck in Calais and unable to reach Britain, said Francois Guennoc, secretary of a local aid group for migrants, estimating that numbers at the camps would rise to around 4,000 by the end of August.
“There are less people trying to get into the tunnel, first because they know it's dangerous, and also because there are more police,” said Guennoc.
Between nine and 12 migrants are thought to have died this summer trying to reach Britain.


How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.