Migrant Crisis at the English Channel

Hundreds of migrants in Calais, France, press to get to the Euro Tunnel, August 1, 2015.

Europe faces an acute migration crisis. In recent years thousands of undocumented migrants have flocked to the Continent especially from countries in East and North Africa and the Middle East. At first the crisis was concentrated in southern Europe, as boats laden with migrants plying the Mediterranean were reaching Italy’s coast or being stopped at sea. In 2014, the number of migrants arriving in Italy topped 170,000, a record annual influx for a single EU country.

Now a related crisis has emerged around the town of Calais, France, across the English Channel from the British Isles. Migrants who have gathered near Calais have tried to stow away on trucks onboard ferries to Dover, on England’s coast. Now they are attempting to use the Channel Tunnel (also called the Euro Tunnel, or Chunnel) to get into the United Kingdom (UK).

Many of the migrants, who come from Eritrea, Syria, and elsewhere, are often referred to as refugees. Individuals’ circumstances vary, but some are fleeing wars or other perilous situations in their home countries and are seeking political asylum. Those who have relatives in the UK or who come from countries where they speak English want to reach Britain rather than remain in France. The governments of both countries are cooperating on security around the port of Calais and the Euro Tunnel. The stress on immigration law-enforcement is contributing to the crisis.

Traffic through the Chunnel includes both passenger and cargo trains, as well as trucks (typically called “lorries” in the foreign press). At times, hundreds of people have attempted to get to the Chunnel en masse, cutting fences and attempting to jump onto trucks or train cars. The British and French people are increasingly alarmed at the dangerous risks some of the migrants are willing to take in order to make the crossing.

Image credit: © Olivier Jobard/Paris Match via Getty Images

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