French police announced Wednesday that a man was crushed to death overnight as up to 1,500 people attempted to illegally sneak into the United Kingdom through the Channel Tunnel under the English Channel.
Attempted crossings are a nightly occurrence for the Channel Tunnel, but Tuesday night’s rush was particularly intense. Migrants approached the tunnel entrance near Calais, trying to hitch a ride on trucks as they boarded shuttle trains to carry them through the tunnel. Drivers can be fined if their trucks are caught carrying illegal migrants, but according to BBC many don’t challenge the migrants because they fear violence.
The man is actually the ninth to die while trying to clear the tunnel in just the last two months. Police told Agence-France Presse the man was likely of Sudanese origin, and between 25 and 30 years of age. He was allegedly run over and killed by a truck.
According to police, as many as 1,000 migrants are still hiding somewhere around the tunnel entrance, and traffic through the tunnel has been slowed down for the time being as they attempt to cope. British authorities urged those planning to travel to Calais to seek other modes of transport while they deal with the problem.
But authorities have no reason to believe the wave of attempted crossings will stop once the tunnel reopens. According to The Guardian, several thousand migrants – mostly from Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan – have set up makeshift “jungle” camps in several locations around the tunnel entrance. While illegal, authorities have been slow to clear the camps out.
Overall, about 37,000 people have been caught attempting to cross over since January, and Eurotunnel, which operates the tunnel’s trains, says it simply can’t handle the pressure by itself.
“The continuous pressure exerted every night is above and beyond that which a concessionaire can reasonably handle and requires a constructive and appropriate response from the [French and British] governments,” Eurotunnel said in a statement.
The assault of thousands of migrants on this narrow but critical transportation corridor is causing a crisis for both governments. The British cabinet is holding an emergency session Wednesday night to address the matter, while it also urges France to accelerate the construction of 1.2 miles of new security fencing around the tunnel entrance at Coquelles. While the fencing will be in France, the British government has promised to pay for it.
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