Illegal immigrants walk three miles through Channel Tunnel in attempt to sneak into UK
Last updated at 22:22pm on 03.01.08
Four illegal immigrants who breached tight security to sneak into the French entrance to the Channel Tunnel were only spotted three miles inside by a train driver.
The gang were walking along one of the main rail tunnel, with 100mph Eurostar trains to Britain passing just feet away when they were stopped at 8.30am on Wednesday morning, police said.
Eurostar passengers suffered three hours of delays to trains in both directions while French frontier police officers and a French Channel Tunnel fire crew arrested the immigrants and returned them to France.
The group were just feet from high-speed trains travelling at 100mph
A Calais frontier police spokesman added: “They were risking their lives by walking against the tunnel wall, very close to trains passing at high speed.
“They were glimpsed by a train driver passing them at about 100mph, who immediately alerted the authorities.
“Trains were stopped while police and fire teams used the main service tunnel to catch up with the immigrants and head them off.
“They have been arrested and are being held in custody by frontier police in Calais.”
The four men, believed to be Afghans who have been in Calais for several weeks, now face prosecution for breaking and entering into Eurotunnel property and could be jailed for up to a year before being deported, the spokesman said.
There are an estimated 1,300 illegal immigrants currently living on the streets of Calais, hoping to sneak into Britain.
Incidents of refugees breaking into the tunnel secure areas, protected by razor wire, search lights and CCTV, were rare, police said.
Most illegal immigrants attempt to reach Briain by sneaking aboard lorries using the ferries and shuttle trains. Calais civic chiefs recently approved plans for a new 'Sangatte-style' camp the town.
The new purpose-built and fully equipped migrants welcome centre will be yards from the Calais ferry terminal, and provide shelter to hordes of illegal immigrants in the town.
A second temporary emergency cold weather shelter is also being opened this winter for refugees living on the streets of Calais.
After the original Red Cross hostel in Sangatte was bulldozed in November 2002, and security around the ferry terminal and Eurotunnel centre was increased, the numbers of refugees lured to Calais fell sharply.
The Home Office said the number of refugees caught sneaking into Britain from Calais fell from 10,000 five years ago to 1,500 last year, a fall of about 88 per cent. But it is now feared their numbers could soar to 2002 levels once the two new centres are up and running.