French police in Calais have backed calls to bring in the British army to help tackle the deepening migrant crisis.
Bruno Noel, head of the Alliance union for police deployed to Calais’ port and Eurotunnel site, said his force is “doing Britain’s dirty work”, but that the situation could soon become unmanageable as migrant numbers swelland police ranks are further depleted.
“We have only 15 permanent French border police at the Eurotunnel site. Can you imagine how derisory this is given the situation? So I say, why not bring in the British army, and let them work together with the French?” he said.
The call for British reinforcements was first made by Kevin Hurley, police and crime commission for Surrey police, who proposed “sending in the Gurkhas”. Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, suggested dispatching the British army over the Channel to check lorries to stop people illegally entering Britain, calling the situation around Calais, “virtually lawless”.
The suggestions drew howls of complaint in France, with critics arguing it would be a total “non-starter” and a slight to French national pride to have UK forces in a port France only recaptured from its cross-Channel neighbour in 1558, when it was known as “the brightest jewel in the English crown”.
But Mr Noel, 40, disagrees. He and his colleagues have spent a gruelling two months trying to keep migrants out of lorries queuing to board trains entering the Channel Tunnel, dealing with striking French ferry workers, and in the past two weeks seeking to stop migrants intruding en masse into the huge Eurotunnel site and hurling themselves onto slow-moving freight trains – at grave risks to their lives.
Anyone who doubted their resolve was provided a spectacular example on Thursday when it emerged that Abdul Rahman Haroun, a Sudanese migrant, dodged hundreds of security cameras and speeding trains to walk 31 miles in the Channel Tunnel to Folkestone, before British police arrested just short of the exit.
The media spotlight has been focused on migrants’ plight. Every night, hundreds more from countries including Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan – men, women, children and even babies strapped to mothers’ backs – make their way from the sprawling migrant camp known as the “new jungle” to the Eurotunnel site’s freight trains. The UN refugee agency has slammed their “appalling” living conditions.
On the ground, Romain Bellina-Fages, is on duty for the CRS, France’s anti-riot force, and more used to policing violent strike protests than fending migrants away from trains.
He was among a team seeking to repel up to 2,000 migrants who stormed the Eurotunnel site last Tuesday seeking to reach the shuttles carrying lorries. He says the task is getting harder by the day.
But Mr Noel says few spare a thought for the French police, who are “physically, psychologically and morally exhausted” from their part in this human drama.