Issue of Calais migrants trying to reach the UK is not new

  • 4 September 2014
  • From the section England
Image caption A ferry bound for Dover was stormed by up to 250 illegal immigrants who were trying to force their way on board

The issue of migrants trying to cross from Calais to the UK is certainly not a new one.

There were riots back in 2001 and 2002 when the controversial refugee camp Sangatte was closed on the orders of the then Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy.

That hasn't stopped migrants from risking their lives on an almost daily basis to try to come to the UK.

In fact in recent months the attempts some migrants have been making to cross the Channel have become increasingly audacious and brazen.

In March this year BBC South East caught on camera images of men running towards trucks at the French port of Calais and climbing on to the vehicles before sitting on the axles.

They showed British trucks being targeted just metres from the Calais port entrance.

Now - in the biggest incident of its kind - a ferry bound for Britain has been stormed by up to 250 illegal immigrants who were trying to force their way on board the vessel at the Calais.

'Huge intrusion'

Witnesses said security staff were forced to turn a fire hose on the crowds as they attempted to overpower officials and machine-gun wielding police by climbing over fences and running up the main ramp into the ferry's vehicle hold.

The operator P&O Ferries confirmed that a "huge intrusion" occurred.

And in the latest incident a woman from Sheperdswell in Dover has told BBC Radio Kent that she arrived back home from France to discover a stowaway in the back of her car.

Sue Taber says she believes the man may have got into her Fiat Panda while she was taking her dogs to have their passports checked in Calais before travelling back by Eurotunnel.

So, it seems the attempts to get to the UK are becoming increasingly common and increasingly desperate.

The Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart has also threatened to shut down the port unless the British government does more to stop the problem of illegal immigration.

'French not doing enough'

But why do so many migrants try to make it to the UK?

It's long been suggested many think they would have a better life in the UK as well as access to better benefits.

In fact migrants have quicker access to housing and benefits if they stay in France.

Yet, they still risk their lives to come to the UK.

BBC South East Today showed footage of the latest pictures of migrants scaling a five-metre-high security fence - right under the noses of French security to the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz.

Image caption Migrants are so desperate to get to the UK that they will even try to scale five-metre-high security fences

He says he's "truly astonished that the French authorities are not co-operating with us in preventing people putting their lives at risk on a daily basis trying to get to the UK".

Mr Vaz believes the French are not doing enough to tackle the problem.

He admits the British and French governments must work together on this but says "it's primarily an issue for governments of Southern Europe and Eastern Europe because people are crossing the border between Greece and Turkey and coming across the Mediterranean through France and Italy with one ambition which is to come to the UK".

He doesn't buy into the idea that they are coming for benefits either but says they feel they will be treated better in the UK than elsewhere and many already have friends or relatives here.

He says in the coming days he'll go to Calais to meet his French counterpart to discuss what can be done.

But with the Home Office confirming it has lost track of nearly 175,000 illegal immigrants and that it will struggle to find them it's going to take more than co-operation between the French and UK governments to tackle the issue of illegal immigrants seeking to come to Britain.

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