In pre-Brexit rush, migrants breach Calais terminal for UK-bound ferry
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In pre-Brexit rush, migrants breach Calais terminal for UK-bound ferry

Paris: More than 100 migrants breached the Calais terminal in a co-ordinated push to board a Dover-bound ferry, forcing authorities to delay departure.

Migrants aboard a rubber boat after being intercepted by French authorities off the port of Calais in northern France.

Migrants aboard a rubber boat after being intercepted by French authorities off the port of Calais in northern France.Credit:AP

About half of the migrants managed to get on to the ferry on Saturday night and conceal themselves on board. Two fell into the sea and were rescued.

French police arrested at least 46 but were continuing to search the vessel, where it was believed several other were hiding.

Some were discovered on an external catwalk attached to the ship's funnel and firefighters were trying to persuade them to come down, according to Jean-Philippe Vennin, a prefecture official. "Firemen managed to get close to them but did not succeed in talking them down, so a second attempt is under way," Mr Vennin said.

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The migrants broke into the highly-protected ferry port just after 8.30pm on Saturday, soon after the Danish-operated DFDS Seaways ferry arrived from Dover carrying 211 passengers and 75 crew members.

UK-France English Channel traffic was disrupted. A Eurostar train enters the Channel Tunnel in Calais.

UK-France English Channel traffic was disrupted. A Eurostar train enters the Channel Tunnel in Calais.Credit:AP

They used a maintenance ladder to clamber aboard the ferry at high tide, according to Vennin. "Two fell into the sea and were quickly rescued by firemen," he said.

Police oversaw the offloading of all the cars and lorries arriving from Dover before carrying out a top-to-bottom search of the vessel. The ship was moved during the night to avoid further delays during the search.

Nevertheless, cross-Channel ferry traffic was delayed overnight and into Sunday, with at least two ferries having to wait at some distance from the French coast before being allowed into port.

There are concerns that migrants desperate to reach the UK before Brexit are resorting to new tactics.

While French police are accustomed to intercepting migrants trying to set off in dinghies, it is unusual for such a large group to try to storm a ferry in this way.

Gilles Debove, a Calais police union spokesman, said: "This was a coordinated, simultaneous assault and when it started there were too few police officers to intervene."

He added: "The riot police reinforcements usually present in Calais had been sent to deal with the 'yellow vest' protests. As Brexit comes closer, we're seeing more migrants try to reach the United Kingdom."

The storming of the ferry came a day after a French court jailed and sentenced two Iraqis and an Iranian convicted of smuggling migrants across the Channel by boat.

HMS Mersey, a naval patrol vessel, was deployed in the Channel to search for migrants in January.

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, ordered the recall of two Border Force cutters from the Mediterranean to the area.

Javid and Christophe Castaner, the French interior minister, also announced a joint action plan to deploy drones, radars and CCTV in the Channel and along the French coast.

Telegraph, London

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