Calais fears summer chaos as migrants up bids to reach UK

Incidents which saw migrants block roads with tree trunks have raised concerns that French police simply can't cope as refugees step up their attempts to reach the UK.

Calais fears summer chaos as migrants up bids to reach UK
Riot police guard the motorway that leads to the port of Calais. Photo: AFP

Migrants from the Jungle camp in Calais used tree trunks and branches to block roads into the northern French port early on Tuesday as officials warned they were stepping up attempts to reach Britain.

Over the past three weeks, there has been a sharp increase in migrant attempts to stow away in the back of lorries which then board ferries or shuttle trains to England, officials say.

Such attempts have stoked tensions with the police after a period of calm following last month's dismantling of part of the sprawling Jungle camp.

“Migrants once again attempted to slow down the traffic by placing branches on the road to obstruct lorries heading to the port of Calais,” a spokesman for authorities in the Pas-de-Calais area told AFP.

“Migrants are cutting down and putting branches, and even tree trunks, on the road and they are operating simultaneously in several places.”

Police unions fear the rise in incidents heralds a difficult summer as the flow of migrants into Europe begins to pick up again and some try to reach Britain, where they believe their chances of finding work are highest.

The concern is that their numbers will be depleted in June and July because officers will be deployed to Euro 2016 football matches in the northern cities of Lille and Lens.

“I fear a rise in tensions and more and more problems because thousands of migrants are arriving in Italy, even if some are going back to Turkey. My colleagues have had enough because there is no solution,” said Bruno Noel from police union Alliance.

Another union representative, Gilles Debove, said two units of riot police were overstretched as they tried to unblock the roads.

“Everyone pretends everything is fine in Calais, but it's just not true. I'm choosing my words here, but the situation is still a hell of a mess,” said Debove of the SGP Police-Force Ouvriere union.

French and British charities say nearly 5,000 people remain in the Jungle, but the government says that figure is vastly inflated.

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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”