Calais migrant crisis: French riot police use chemical spray on migrants trying to enter Channel Tunnel

More than 200 migrants who broke down several security fences were forced to retreat by riot police near the entrance of the English Channel

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The Independent Online

French riot police have sprayed migrants with chemical irritants as they attempted to enter the Channel Tunnel late on Saturday night.

An estimated 200 migrants broke down several security fences and were forced to retreat by riot police as they tried to break through the final fence near the entrance of the 30 mile English Channel.

The group clashed with security forces for nearly an hour, reportedly chanting slogans such as “Open the border” and “We are not animals”.  

In recent weeks thousands of migrants have been scaling fences near the tunnel attempting to jump onto freight trains or trucks heading for Britain. On Wednesday a young Sudanese asylum seeker was crushed to death by a lorry in an effort to get to Britain.

Some migrants have also reportedly attempted to swim the Channel - one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

This latest incident comes after police sources rejected suggestions of a “mass storming” of the site after following reports that at least 2,200 acts of trespass were recorded at the terminal at the beginning of last week.

The migrant activity at the tunnel combined with a series of strikes by French ferry workers have disrupted freight and passenger traffic, and prompted both governments to promise greater controls such as higher fences, more surveillance cameras and extra security guards.

British and French officials have said that the migrant’s nightly attempts to reach Britain are part of a “global migration crisis” that needs an international solution.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the current situation is “very concerning” and Home Secretary Theresa May chaired an emergency Cobra meeting last week.

The Government have agreed to provide an extra £7 million to help improve security at Calais and the Channel Tunnel.

Additional reporting by Associated Press