Migrant dies in Channel Tunnel as British security body meets over crisis

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 29, 2015 3:54 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - A migrant died trying to cross to Britain from France early on Wednesday, French police said, adding to a number of recent deaths in the Channel Tunnel as British ministers and security chiefs were to meet over the crisis in Calais.

Freight and passenger traffic through the rail tunnel has been severely disrupted in recent weeks as large numbers of migrants camped out in the Calais area have tried to board lorries traveling from France to Britain.

The Sudanese man who died on Wednesday was probably hit by a lorry exiting one of the shuttles that transport vehicles through the tunnel, French police said. French media said he was the ninth migrant to die in the tunnel since early June.

There were about 1,500 attempts by migrants to access the tunnel on Tuesday night, a Eurotunnel spokesman said, after 2,000 attempts the previous night.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and his British counterpart Theresa May met on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, and May was due to chair a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee in London later on Wednesday.

Britain has agreed up to 7 million pounds ($10.9 million) of extra funding to help increase security at the tunnel's French terminal at Coquelles, officials said.

British authorities said they had agreed with the French to work together on returning the migrants to their countries of origin, particularly in West Africa, although no details were given about how this would work.

The crisis at Calais has had a knock-on effect on road traffic on the British side and caused huge delays for freight lorries as well as holidaymakers trying to reach the continent.

Some sections of the British media and some politicians have criticized France's handling of the crisis, though the government has stressed the importance of cooperation.

"There's no point trying to point fingers ... of blame," British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters during a visit to Singapore, adding he was "very concerned" about events in Calais.

"It's about working with the French, putting in place these additional security measures, adding in the investment where that's needed.... We know how important this is," he said.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon in London, Pierre Savary in Lille, Dominique Vidalon in Paris and Rujun Shen in Singapore; editing by John Stonestreet)