France beefs up Calais security after migrant clashes

A Sudanese man calls his family in Sudan in the "Jungle" migrants camp in Calais.
A Sudanese man calls his family in Sudan in the "Jungle" migrants camp in Calais.AFP

ARRAS, France (AFP) - France stepped up security around a migrant camp in Calais on Tuesday after two nights of clashes between migrants and security forces in the northern port city.

Tensions have soared around a camp of thousands of migrants in Calais as already heightened security has made it impossible in recent weeks for them to smuggle themselves across the Channel into Britain.

The past two nights have seen clashes as police fire volleys of teargas to disperse scores of migrants trying to disrupt traffic on the Calais ring-road while throwing rocks and other objects at police.

Twenty-seven police officers received minor injuries in the scuffles, while it was not known how many migrants were injured.

Local government official Fabienne Buccio said that in a "new phenomenon" the residents living near the camp, dubbed the "Jungle", had witnessed the violence and experienced theft and other damage.

"We are going to deploy security forces so they are visible to the local community," said Buccio.

"There have not been physical confrontations but the migrants have often entered the property of community members to get objects to block trucks on the ring-road."

On Tuesday, police went to meet residents to "give them advice, to reassure them" she said.

Buccio speculated that the rise in violence was due to the migrants' frustration at being blocked from reaching Britain, their ultimate goal.

The migrant population in Calais doubled between June and August as Europe struggles with its worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Initially, migrants would try and sneak into trucks crossing the Channel, but tighter security then saw them try and storm the Eurotunnel site to get into the tunnel.

Attempts to breach the site peaked at over 1,500 a night in August and have since dropped to a few dozen as security was boosted.

The Calais migrant situation has strained tensions between Britain and France and is also a political hot potato ahead of regional elections in December.

However, the number of migrants involved remains tiny compared to those in other countries such as Germany which is expected to receive up to a million asylum requests this year.