Refugees storm into Channel Tunnel
About 150 refugees stormed past French security guards at the Channel Tunnel entrance to try to reach Britain
overnight, halting passenger and freight trains, officials have said.
British police, who joined the hunt with sniffer dogs, said the French appeared to have tracked down and detained all the refugees. "None of them got into Britain," said a police spokesman. The nationality of the refugees involved in the Christmas Day break-in was not immediately known, but a nearby Red Cross centre houses illegal immigrants from Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. "A group of about 150 people gained access to the area after having broken through electronic locks," said a spokeswoman for Eurotunnel, which runs the undersea rail link between France and Britain.
"The (security) forces at the scene were not numerous enough to intercept them, so the illegals got into the two railway tunnels," she said, adding that freight and passenger traffic had been halted "for security reasons".
The tunnel was expected to reopen later on Wednesday. No one was injured in the incident, the latest in a long-running series of attempts by refugees to reach Britain where they believe they can win permanent entry and a better life.
Train traffic through the tunnel dries up on Christmas Day, which would have given the refugees a better chance of walking the 25 miles through it undetected.
The refugees detained by French authorities were taken to the Red Cross centre in nearby Sangatte to join about 1,000 other illegal immigrants housed there.
Britain has been pressing France to do more to stop refugees from getting through the tunnel. French officials have said the blame lies with Britain's relatively liberal asylum laws which create the picture of an "El Dorado" for impoverished migrants. The government is under intense pressure from opposition parties and the media to prove it is no "soft touch" on asylum.
Refugees regularly try to enter Britain illegally from France on ferries, by train or through the Channel Tunnel.