The British economy could be hit by a summer of travel chaos stemming from the Calais migrant crisis, warn Eurotunnel and the UK freight industry, as holidaymakers faced a weekend of gridlock on the South-east’s roads.
A brief suspension of Eurotunnel services on Friday night, after migrants got into the Eurotunnel from the French side, led to long delays for passengers travelling from Folkestone on Saturday. Parts of the M20 motorway were shut for a further day, to allow lorries waiting to cross the channel to queue.
Operation Stack has been in effect for 13 days out of the past 20 as a result of disruption at Calais caused by the migrant crisis, industrial action by ferry workers and protests by French farmers.
Travellers diverted on to the A20 faced long queues, and ferry services from Dover were also hit by delays of up to two hours.
John Keefe, Eurotunnel’s spokesman, said that disruption from migrants “making attempts to get on to trucks, to climb over fences, to get close to the trains” had become a nightly occurrence, leading to shutdowns. He described the situation as a “humanitarian crisis” and urged governments on both sides of the Channel to commit to “serious action” to stop the flow of migrants into the port.
“Otherwise the impact will be on the UK and French economies,” he said. “The value of trade across the straits is somewhere in the region of £200bn a year and it’s being affected every single night. It’s the goods going into our supermarkets. It’s our exports. The governments have to take the responsibility for that and deliver some solutions, which so far they haven’t achieved.” Mr Keefe added that Eurotunnel had been issuing leaflets in nine different languages in migrant camps in Calais, where 5,000 people are now thought to be staying, warning of the dangers of entering the tunnel.
“Everyone talks about ‘the migrants’ in a broad generalisation, but these are individuals with stories and lives, in many cases tragic histories that have brought them to this point,” he said. “They’re living in dreadful conditions around Calais, and they just want one thing, which is to get to the UK.”Reuse content