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France boosts Chunnel security

Caught on film: A refugee illegally enters the Channel Tunnel site near Sangatte
Caught on film: A refugee illegally enters the Channel Tunnel site near Sangatte  

PARIS, France -- France plans to reinforce security at its end of the Channel Tunnel in a bid to stop asylum seekers entering Britain illegally.

Would-be immigrants risk their lives and have caused massive disruptions to freight services heading towards England.

Britain, angry at the growing problem of refugees using the tunnel, has been pressuring France to step up its security measures.

Services from the Frethun terminal, near Calais -- run by French rail operator SNCF -- are regularly cancelled or delayed, costing freight companies millions of pounds.

In some cases, rail services have been stopped because of refugees caught walking through the tunnel.

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The terminal is near the Sangatte refugee camp, which houses asylum seekers from across the world including Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Tunnel operators Eurotunnel last week had said the French side of the tunnel, near the camp, was in a "state of lawlessness."

France announced on Monday it would be reinforcing security at the tunnel after meetings with a UK delegation.

"The French delegation presented new measures to reinforce the protection and safety of the Calais-Frethun site," the ministry said in a statement.

Gwyn Prosser, the Labour MP for Dover, near to the tunnel's UK terminal, welcomed the move.

Prosser said: "I am pleased they have at last agreed that new measures will be put in place to improve security at the Frethun freight site and that this will happen as soon as possible."

French rail operator SNCF has been forced to suspend freight services  

SNCF has cut the number of freight trains it sends through the tunnel because of the security problems.

The announcement follows acrimonious exchanges between France and Britain over the tunnel.

Earlier this month, Britain told France it must act quickly to tighten security so rail freight services could operate normally.

British Transport Minister John Spellar said the UK government was "not satisfied" with French efforts to secure the freight terminal.

"We have not been happy with the speed with which things have been done there," he said.

Britain's main rail freight operator EWS said it was losing customers "in droves" after five months of regular cancellations of freight services by SNCF.


• UK rebukes French tunnel security
March 16, 2002
• Refugee dies in Eurotunnel bid
January 19, 2002
• 500 refugees storm Channel Tunnel
December 26, 2001
• Refugees riot at French camp
November 21, 2001
• Ex-general to police Channel Tunnel
September 9, 2001

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