French, British and Eurotunnel officials are now struggling to control the influx of refugees into the Eurotunnel. Migrants have made more than 2,000 attempts to cross the route in the last 24 hours.
French authorities and the Eurotunnel company said on Wednesday that migrants had made over 2,000 attempts to travel to Britain in lorries and trains that went through the Chunnel from Calais to the British Isles. British Home Secretary Theresa May said "a number" of migrants made it overnight, although figures varied widely, between 200 and over 1,500.
The French Interior Ministry said there were "between 1,500 and 2,000 attempts per night" in the past two months by migrants who wanted to make their way through the Chunnel into Britain where they thought living conditions were better.
"The migrants' strategy is simple," Bruno Noel from the French police union Alliance told reporters. "They arrive as soon as night falls. They lie in wait and sneak onto the premises and hide. As soon as a shuttle train takes off, they try and clamber on to it," Noel said.
Tensions on the rise
The rising numbers of refugees was raising tensions between Britain, France and the Chunnel authorities, already chaotic due to the increased number of tourists travelling back and forth.
Nearly 4.7 million euros ($5.2 million) have been spent in erecting barriers to secure the Chunnel from incoming refugees and London has announced another seven million pounds (9.8 million euros) to help France secure its end of the Eurotunnel. Britain is also building a "secure zone" to protect lorries.
Despite the efforts, many refugees have made it to Britain. "More than 100" succeeded on Tuesday alone in reaching British soil, Britain's interior minister, Theresa May, said. Her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, said he was sending 120 more police officers to Calais to deal with the crisis, but said the responsibility to fend off refugees also lay with the Eurotunnel authorities.
Fending off 'invasions' by refugees
On his part, the firm's CEO, Jacques Gounon, said his organization was up against "systematic, massive, maybe even organized invasions." "The pressure we are now under every night exceeds that which an operator can reasonably handle, and calls for an appropriate reaction from the states [of France and Britain,]" Eurotunnel said in a statement.
Its security officers have held back 37,000 migrants from entering its premises since the beginning of this year. The company has sought 9.7 million euros ($10.7 million) in damages for disruption caused by the refugees.
Medical team under stress
Meanwhile, a medical tent specially erected for refugees was overwhelmed, after injured migrants came in for treatment.
"Our team can only treat 90 patients a day. Yesterday, we had to administer urgent treatment to 64 people," Chloe Lorieux of the charity organization Medecins du Monde told reporters.
A 20-year-old man of Sudanese origin died on Wednesday after apparently being crushed by a lorry while trying to smuggle himself into Britain.
More than 3,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Afghanistan have camped outside the Eurotunnel in Calais, trying to make a dash to Britain as soon as they get a chance.
mg/kms (Reuters, AP)