Dozens of migrants have broken into a secure Eurotunnel complex – by guessing the passcode to a gate in the fence and walking straight through. Their actions make a mockery of the millions of pounds being spent by the British government to secure the Eurotunnel, and come just days after a man was able to walk the entire 30 mile length of the tunnel into England.
Around 30 men gained access to the supposedly secure rail lines approximate three miles west of the mouth of the Eurotunnel, after they walked up to gates in the fence line and simply tapped in the passcode. They are assumed to have guessed the combination by examining the key pad to discern which keys were the most worn and dirty, The Telegraph has reported.
Closer inspection of the keypad has revealed that the numbers zero, two and four have clearly been used more than the others.
A photographer spotted the men as they passed through the gate, snapping photos of the men as they went inside. They were soon apprehended by security staff. Eurotunnel has now added a padlock to the gate, but it is not known how many others have used this route before.
Bruno Noel, of the Alliance police union in the Calais area, described the security breach as “strange and very troubling”.
“This fence has been there for a long time and as you know when you tap in a code you don’t touch all the keys to hide your tracks, so it’s quite possible that the keys corresponding to the code are dirtier than the others.”
“I can’t see how else it might have happened.
“Eurotunnel regularly checks the state of the fences and gates and the codes for these.”
The incident comes days after a Sudanese man, Abdul Rahman Haroun, was able to walk the full length of the tunnel and into England. The trip, which took eleven hours, would have seen him pass within inches of trains travelling at high speed.
A former tunnel worker said the exploit was both extremely dangerous and hard to believe. “The gap between the train and the side is very narrow – only around 80cm, and given the speed of trains, it would be very easy to get blown off balance,” he said. “He would not have been able to get into the service tunnel as this can only be access via armoured doors and you need to ask permission to open them.
“He must have been lucky that the trains were travelling slowly due to diversions inside the tunnels.”
But the feat has inspired Haroun’s countrymen. 28-year-old Moussa Daoud from Darfur simply commented: “Congratulations. We can try to.”
The ease with which security features are being breached potentially makes a mockery of Britain’s promise to spend millions on adding extra fences, CCTV and other security measures. The Treasury has promised £19 million in all.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with the French government and Eurotunnel to tackle the immediate pressures and longer term issues involved in the situation in northern France.
“The UK government has recently invested £7 million for fencing at Coquelles to secure the Eurotunnel platforms, as well as further perimeter fencing.
“The first phase of fencing at Coquelles was completed today.
“Extra Border Force search and dog teams have also been drafted in to further protect the Eurotunnel site.
“Since last year, the UK Government has provided funding to bolster the security and infrastructure of ports in northern France including a £2 million upgrade of detection technology, a £1 million extension of dog searching capacity and an additional £12 million to reinforce security at the juxtaposed border.”
The Government has also suggested that it may order the Channel Tunnel to be closed overnight, to enable the tunnel to be properly secured. But Eurotunnel, who channel freight traffic through the tunnel at night, have threatened to sue the government for £200 million in lost earnings if that plan goes ahead.
According to The Times, Eurotunnel chairman Jacques Gounon has warned that, under an agreement between the British and French governments and the tunnel operators, Eurotunnel would be obliged “to claim for loss which we estimate could easily attain the level of £200 million a year” if the tunnel was shut.
In a letter to Christopher Irwin, head of the UK delegation to the Channel tunnel intergovernmental commission, he added: “We believe it would be far better for resources to be focused on resolving the Calais crisis rather than sowing panic amongst customers and investors and, ultimately, damaging the economy.”