The area around the Eurotunnel entrance at Calais has been described as looking like “the apocalypse” by locals, having been first cleared of all vegetation and now flooded as part of a strategy to keep migrants away.
Migrants have been targeting the Eurotunnel as a way to get across to England, spurred on by three successful attempts at walking the length of it last year. Many others clambered over the fences and onto the rails in a bid to hide in lorries bound for Britain.
In an attempt to stop them, Eurotunnel, who owns the site and surrounding environs, has quite literally opened the floodgates, opening barriers used to drain the land and allowing the water level to rise.
“The tunnel itself is built on a marshy piece of reclaimed land and it was very waterlogged,” Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe told The Local.”
“We have let the water level rise and used this to form a network of barriers to stop people from getting to the fences – a way of using the natural environment as a layer of protection.”
— La Voix du Nord web (@lavoixdunord) January 13, 2016
The water is not deep, but does extend across fields for quite a distance along the fence line.
The flooding is also merely the latest strategy deployed by Eurotunnel against the migrants: in September, 103 hectares of woodland and vegetation were razed to prevent migrants from using them as cover, and to allow for the installation of infra-red cameras.
In August, Sudanese national Abdul Rahman Haroun made headlines by walking the entire length of the 31 mile tunnel despite the danger posed by high speed trains passing just inches away. He was initially charged with causing an obstruction to an engine or carriage using the railway under the Malicious Damage Act 1861, but those charges may be dropped as on Christmas Eve he was granted asylum and given leave to stay in the UK.
Two Iranians successfully repeated the feat in October, and were arrested in Kent upon arrival. They too were arrested and charged with causing obstruction to an engine.
Since then, thanks to the measures taken to beef up their security, Eurotunnel has seen a significant drop off in the number of migrants attempting to use the tunnel as a route into England. “The extra security has worked really well after the summer peak. The fencing is difficult to break through or get over, and we also have 460 police providing a strong screen. There have been hardly any break ins since October,” Keefe said, adding that only a “tiny handful” had made it through to the UK.