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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
More immigrants target Channel Tunnel
Perimeter fence at Calais entrance to Eurotunnel
Eurotunnel says hundreds try to stow away each night
Eighty asylum seekers have been found trying to smuggle themselves into the UK through the Channel Tunnel overnight.

The latest attempt comes a day after 44 asylum seekers managed to walk seven miles into the French end of the tunnel before being stopped.

Eurotunnel said the latest group were rounded up at the Calais site by its security staff and returned to the Red Cross centre at nearby Sangatte.

They had not made any attempt to get into the tunnel itself, said Eurotunnel spokesman Kevin Charles.

Sangatte refugee camp building
Eurotunnel wants the Sangatte refugee camp shut down

It has previously been estimated that of the 1,200 or so refugees at the camp at any one time, a massive 400 attempt to stow away each night.

Eurotunnel said about 300 were detained near the entrance to the tunnel on Wednesday night.

The company, which operates the Channel Tunnel rail link, has increased security patrols at both tunnel entrances following Wednesday night's incursion.

About 150 guards are now patrolling the tunnel at any one time, along with CCTV and infra-red cameras.

Mr Charles said: "It's the same problem night after night which is why the British and French governments have dumped the problem on our doorstep.

"We have increased the number of staff patrolling the portal but if you strengthen security at one part it moves the problem elsewhere.

"The bottom line is that these people will not go away. We could build a 30ft wall and they would still come back night after night.

"Their destination, full stop, is the UK and that is the reality of the situation."

Court actions

Eurotunnel has launched action in both the British and French courts over the issue.

It has asked a French court to shut down the Sangatte camp, run by the Red Cross to house refugees gathering in Calais, because immigrants are targeting its services.

Calais police arresting stowaways
French police say they do all they can
The camp is about 2km (1.2 miles) from Eurotunnel's Coquelles terminal near Calais.

Eurotunnel has described it as a "logistics centre where incursions are planned and strategy is discussed."

The Red Cross has said closing the centre would not stop asylum seekers gathering in the area.

It said it would continue to run the shelter as long as it is needed.

In the UK the company is fighting Home Office plans to fine it 2,000 for every illegal immigrant found on its services.

The rules currently apply to airlines, ferry operators, road hauliers and other freight train operators, and the government wants them to be extended to Eurotunnel.

Eurotunnel argues that is unfair, saying it is a private transport company, not a frontier control point, and already prevents thousands of immigrants entering the UK illegally.

The Home Office has said it is "already doing everything we can to help Eurotunnel".

Immigration officers work at the terminal carrying out checks for would-be asylum seekers.

The BBC's Jon Sopel
"Every night, it's the same story"
See also:

21 Aug 01 | Europe
Chunnel row over refugee camp
26 Mar 01 | UK
Stowaway fines 'unfair'
11 Feb 01 | Europe
Violence at French refugee hostel
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