Tougher border controls spark desperate measures

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Tougher measures to prevent the smuggling of illegal immigrants by lorry and van may have led would-be British asylum-seekers to take a dangerous route, according to French officials.

Tougher measures to prevent the smuggling of illegal immigrants by lorry and van may have led would-be British asylum-seekers to take a dangerous route, according to French officials.

The injured immigrants found near the British end of the Channel Tunnel yesterday almost certainly came from the Red Cross shelter in a former Eurotunnel warehouse at Sangatte, less than a mile from the tunnel entrance. They either climbed aboard a cross-channel freight in the nearby marshalling yards or, less probably, jumped aboard a lorry bound for the freight shuttle.

Why they ended up on the tracks in the tunnel itself remains a mystery, but French officials say the migrants may have been hoping to dodge security checks at Folkestone.

Investigations were underway in Calais yesterday by Eurotunnel officials and French border police to try to discover how the migrants breached the supposedly tight security at the French tunnel entrance.

Up to 400 immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and some eastern European countries crowd into the Red Cross shelter at Sangatte during the day. At night, many try to board lorries bound for Britain. Shelter workers say they can judge their success by the numbers returning for shelter the next day. On some nights, up to 100 disappear.

"In the last couple of months, the numbers have been fairly stable, suggesting they are no longer so successful as before," a worker at the shelter said yesterday.

Tougher controls at the British end and new technology introduced at the French end - in the form of a machine that can detect carbon monoxide emissions inside lorries and containers - appear to have disrupted some of the normal routes. The machine, bought by the Calais chamber of commerce, and offered free to lorry drivers, operates only in the Calais port area, not at the tunnel entrance.

Despite the clampdown after the death of 58 Chinese migrants smuggled from Zeebrugge, Belgium, in June, Calais remains a magnet for hundreds of asylum-seekers hoping to reach Britain. The going rate for professional smugglers is said by police to be £100 per person.

Most migrants at the shelter have no money. Their only hope of reaching Britain has been to try to get on to a truck - or maybe, now, to board a train.

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