A group of migrants overran a high-speed train in Calais on Tuesday and attempted to ride on the roof through the Eurotunnel into the U.K. welfare state. Quite a few facts have been strategically omitted from these accounts, but the UK Daily Mail serves up all of the awful details.
Chaotic scenes and 16 hour delays hit London-bound Eurostar services overnight as migrants climbed on to the roof of an 186mph train and attempted to break into train carriages.
Passengers on board one train stranded near Calais are understood to have threatened to smash the windows after a power outage left the sweltering carriage in total darkness for five hours.
The power failure also saw those on board left without air conditioning and unable to communicate with Eurostar staff before the stricken train eventually returned to Paris.
As they searched in vain for the migrants, Eurostar staff went as far as making the bizarre move of appealing to passengers to listen out for the sound of movement on the roofs of the trains.
At least four UK-bound trains were delayed for several hours, with two of them sent back to Paris, as police attempted to remove the trespassers from the tops of carriages in Calais.
Without air conditioning or lights, conditions on the train deteriorated to the point that some passengers threatened to smash the windows and escape. “The train ended up running out of batteries, so there was no air conditioning, and then after two more hours no more communication as the audio system was out of service. We then spent an unbelievable amount of time in the dark, in an air that was hard to breathe,” a French passenger recalled.
Many of the passengers subjected to these conditions were children. “Stuck with the kids on a Eurostar train, no air con – refugees on the roof,” read one Tweet from inside the train. “Three hours in, police helicopter now checking the train for intruders on the roof.”
NBC News, in contrast, begins its post on the incident with “Desperate migrants climbed on the roof of a high-speed train in a bid to traverse the 30-mile tunnel linking France and Britain, according to a passenger,” spends most of the story talking about how staff asked passengers to help them listen for the sound of people moving around on the roof, and only briefly mentions the horrific conditions imposed on passengers at the very end of the story, saying only that they were “stranded in the darkness and ‘intense’ heat,” quoting a single word from one passenger’s lament.
The NBC report concludes by saying the passengers were “eventually dropped off at the nearby Calais Frethun train station,” without dwelling on how long that took, or how much of the time was spent suffering in the dark. The report also fails to mention that the passengers stranded in Calais proceeded to complain about being left in the cold, in the wee morning hours, with no communication from the line and no idea what to do next.
Many of the passengers have expressed outrage at the Eurostar line for trapping them in pitch-black hotboxes, which is understandable, but their anger is somewhat misplaced. Railroad staff “were scared that that if they opened the doors, the migrants might attempt to board the train – potentially putting the safety of those on board at risk,” according to the Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail relates a mix of passenger responses from social media, including some who expressed sympathy with the migrants. “In relative terms this is a minor inconvenience for us, but a desperate, awful situation for those getting on train tracks,” said one.
Most of the passengers appear not to see it that way. They had a reasonable expectation that their governments would protect them — and, for that matter, prevent the formation of a humanitarian crisis that would ultimately lead desperate people to think clambering onto the roof of a high-speed train was an acceptable strategy for reaching their desired migratory destination.
The Daily Mail also describes “sick Twitter trolls messaging Euorstar’s official account to say: ‘Can’t you just run them over? That might be just the message the rest of Calais Jungle needs to hear.'” This again misses the point. Eurostar should not be put in the position to endure such taunts. They are not going to start plowing through crowds of people blocking the train tracks, but the alternative is what? Cut rail service through the Eurotunnel at the whim of the migrants? Capitulate to their demands in order to resume service?
Eurostar had no power to prevent tens of thousands of migrants from swarming through Europe and setting up a tent city in Calais. They have only limited resources to secure the rail line now. Secure travel and commerce is a vital duty of government, not the private corporations and customers who pay all their taxes.