A workers' strike over job cuts in the French port of Calais has turned chaotic and shut down traffic between France and England. Illegal immigrants used the opportunity to try and board trucks bound for England.
Traffic chaos reigned in the French port of Calais on Tuesday as protesting French sailors blocked access to the Channel Tunnel, forcing canceled trains, diverted ferries and miles of backup on the highways. Dozens of striking workers also set fire to tires on the train tracks linking England and France, sending plumes of black smoke into the air.
Some of the thousands of illegal immigrants camped out in Calais, desperately trying to reach Great Britain, took advantage of the confusion to try and board cargo vehicles headed for England.
The striking sailors are employees of the French ferry company MyFerryLink. They were protesting prospective job cuts on Tuesday as their company planned to sell two of its ferries to competitor DFDS.
"It's out of the question that DFDS takes our boats. Never, never," said the head of the striking union, Eric Vercoutre.
"We've been betrayed."
A source at the port told French news agency AFP that 50 people prevented passengers from exiting a DFDS ferry early on Tuesday morning, forcing the boat to return to Dover in the south of England.
Eurotunnel said the tunnel was expected to be closed all day Tuesday, cancelling Eurostar train service between London, Brussels and Paris.
"We expect normal service to be resumed tomorrow," said Eurostar in a statement.
Ferry traffic has been diverted to Dunkirk on France's border with Belgium.
es/cmk (AP, AFP)