By Helen Regan
June 26, 2015

In chaotic scenes over the past week, hundreds of migrants in the northern French port of Calais have been trying to jump onto trucks bound for the U.K.

The migrants, most of whom had fled war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, took advantage of a strike by French MyFerryLink workers on Tuesday. The striking workers forced the port and the Channel Tunnel, which links France to the U.K., to close, causing long tailbacks of trucks on highways around Calais.

Footage shows migrants desperately trying to board the vehicles, sometimes jumping onto moving trucks, breaking locks or attempting to hold onto the underside of the carriages.

“Drivers were unable to open their windows or leave their vehicles for fear of either being threatened or would-be stowaways getting on board,” Don Armour, the Freight Transport Association’s international manager, told the Guardian.

There are believed to be about 3,000 migrants living in a squalid makeshift camp near Calais. They are determined to reach the U.K., where they say they’ll have the chance of a better life.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron called the scenes in Calais “totally unacceptable” and vowed to work more closely with French authorities. U.K. ministers are considering sending extra border-control officials, sniffer-dog teams and equipment to strengthen fences around the port and rail crossings.

But several of the city’s politicians have accused the British government of not doing enough to calm the situation. Philippe Mignonet, the deputy mayor of Calais, said the city had been “sacrificed” by the British and Europe, reports the Guardian.

The chaos in Calais comes as European Union leaders struggle to decide what to do with huge waves of migrants entering Europe via risky sea journeys across the Mediterranean.

At heated talks in Brussels on Thursday night, E.U. leaders agreed to relocate 40,000 migrants who have arrived in Italy and Greece, plus a further 20,000 currently in camps outside the E.U., to member states over the next two years, reports the BBC.

But there would not be mandatory quotas for taking in refugees, the leaders said.

 

Write to Helen Regan at helen.regan@timeasia.com.

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