Port of Calais closed as migrants storm ferry

Rory Mulholland — The Telegraph Jan 23, 2016

Migrants storm toward the Port of Calais during a demonstration on Saturday

Migrants storm toward the Port of Calais during a demonstration on Saturday

The port of Calais was closed on Saturday after a ferry was stormed by 50 migrants from the nearby “Jungle” camp, earlier visited by Jeremy Corbyn.

Up to 500 migrants had broken off from a protest march through the town about migrants’ conditions, according to the mayor, Natacha Bouchart.

Around 150 then broke through the port’s perimeter fence, and 50 made it to the gangplanks of the P&O ferry Spirit of Britain. Photographs later showed the migrants standing on the upper decks of the ferry.

A French official said: “A group of 500 people forced their way through police lines and headed to the port, and 150 people were able to get into the fenced-off area. Of these, a group of some 50 managed to board a ferry.”

On Saturday night the migrants were blocking the gangway, preventing police from getting onboard.

The incident came after “serious disorder” took place in the centre of Calais, according to the mayor, at the end of a largely peaceful demonstration by about 2,000 activists from the UK and other countries as well as migrants from the nearby ‘Jungle’.

Twice this week there were clashes between riot police in Calais and hundreds of migrants from the Jungle, who mostly come from troubled countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan or Eritrea.

Police were called to try and remove the migrants, but in the meantime the mayor said the port was closed.

She issued an angry stream of tweets aimed at both the international support groups who organised the march and at the French government.

“This is proof that demonstrations organised by pseudo-defenders of migrants are essentially intended to attack normal life,” she said. “I had made clear to the government my disapproval of this demonstration.”

Jeremy Corbyn at the migrant camp near Calais earlier on Saturday.

Jeremy Corbyn at the migrant camp near Calais earlier on Saturday.

Before going to the Jungle, Mr Corbyn had visited another migrant camp in nearby Dunkirk and decried the “dreadful conditions” there for its 2,500 thousand occupants, most of them Kurds from Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The Labour leader’s visit came amid growing urgency over the migrant crisis, with French prime minister Manuel Valls warning the huge influx was putting the European Union’s future in “grave danger”.

Four Syrian migrants arrived in Britain this week from the camp in Calais after a landmark ruling by a UK court which could see more crossing the Channel.

The court cited European Union legislation, under which those who have a relative living legally in another European country – as the four Syrians do in Britain – have a legal entitlement to apply to seek asylum there.

Under the rules, asylum seekers should first claim asylum in France, but the court agreed that bureaucratic failures meant this rarely happened, and that evidence of a written claim to asylum in France was sufficient.

Last night P&O Ferries said: “The Port of Calais is resolving a security incident. As a result our vessels are subject to delay of between 90 and 120 minutes.”

A statement from the Port of Dover said that “services to and from Calais via the Port of Dover are affected, but DFDS Seaways services are still running to Dunkirk as normal.”