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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 00:46 GMT 01:46 UK
Eurotunnel contests 'asylum fines'
Freight train emerging from the Channel Tunnel
Eurotunnel says its has greatly tightened security
Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel is launching a legal challenge against the UK Government over plans to impose fines for illegal immigrants found on its shuttle services.

The Home Office wants the company to increase security to prevent illegal immigrants arriving in lorries via the rail tunnel which links France to Britain.

Eurotunnel has prevented over 18,500 would-be asylum seekers from reaching the UK

Eurotunnel statement

Eurotunnel, which faces a 2,000 fine for each illegal immigrant found on its trains, maintains it has already spent a lot of money on security measures at its French terminal.

In a statement late on Wednesday, the company said it had applied for a judicial review of the government's plan because it believed it was "unlawful".

But a Home Office spokeswoman said the company needed to "ensure the security and safety" of the Coquelles terminal close to Calais in northern France.

"If they put in place the proper arrangements to check their trains and make sure the site is secure, then they won't be liable for any penalties," she said.

'3m on security'

Eurotunnel also says the fine proposals are "disproportionate" given the 3m the company had spent on extra security measures at the French terminal.

A company spokesman said: "As a direct result of these security measures, Eurotunnel has prevented over 18,500 would-be asylum seekers from reaching the UK in the first six months of 2001."

According to official figures, 6,971 people arrived in Britain illegally via the rail link last year.

The overall number of asylum seekers rose from 45,000 in 1998 to 76,000 in 2000.

See also:

19 Feb 01 | Business
Eurotunnel urges immigrant curbs
09 Feb 01 | Europe
UK and France strike asylum deal
22 Mar 01 | UK
Desperate cargo
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