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23 Jun, 2015 14:31

Calais chaos: Strike shuts down French port, migrants target UK-bound lorries (VIDEOS)

Calais is witnessing travel chaos after striking French workers blocked the port. They have cut access to the Channel Tunnel rail link and disrupted maritime traffic. Amid the confusion, migrants are trying to stowaway on UK bound lorries.

The industrial action is being taken by MyFerryLink workers, who are protesting against internal restructuring within the company, which could lead to job cuts. Around 100 employees have blocked the route towards the port by setting fire to barricades made from tires.

Worst affected has been the ferry service between Calais and the UK, with the port authorities saying there will be no services before 8pm local time. However, there were still some services running on the shuttle train services, which transport passengers and heavy goods vehicles between the northern French port and Folkestone in the UK.

Les marins de My Ferry Link bloquent le port de Calais et l'accès au Tunnel. Ils refusent que les bateaux soient vendus par Eurotunnel à la compagnie Danoise DFDS. Plus d'infos dans le JT de 18hPosted by Wéo, la télé Nord-Pas de Calais on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The challenge for motorists is to even reach the Channel Tunnel link due to large volumes of traffic in the vicinity.

"There are trucks all over the motorway and huge queues so getting through the blockade by port workers is extremely difficult," said Eurotunnel's John Keefe, according to the Local.

"We are running every service we can, but the issue is on the motorway and what happens on the motorway is the responsibility of French authorities," he added. However, the service was later suspended due to the protests, AFP reported.

There have been reports that migrants have been taking advantage of the chaos to try and stow away on lorries in a bid to reach the UK.

#Calais l'antisommossa che reprime i migranti nella zona, ora schierata contro i lavoratori portuali in sciopero pic.twitter.com/1GZanMoHuy

— Jolie Rouge (@JigginoRuss) June 23, 2015

The British government has issued a statement, saying that lorry drivers heading toward the UK should be vigilant to ensure migrants don’t manage to cross the Channel illegally.

“There are large numbers of illegal migrants in and around Calais, who may seek to enter the UK illegally. Although local police patrols have been reinforced, you should keep vehicle doors locked in slow moving traffic and secure your vehicle when it is left unattended,” the statement read.

READ MORE: France arrests 100 British migrant smugglers in Calais

An estimated 100 Brits have been jailed in the port town of Calais, France, for attempting to smuggle migrants across the channel into England during the past year, local prosecutors have claimed.

The rise in prosecutions means UK citizens make up 25 percent of smugglers brought before the Calais court, second only to smugglers from Eastern Europe.

The revelations were made in a BBC documentary, “Ticket to Hide,” which will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Tuesday.

Calais court’s Deputy Prosecutor Julie Colaert told the program she sees up to 10 British smugglers prosecuted each month for promising migrants a “guaranteed passage” to the UK.

“In the last two years, we have seen more and more English smugglers.”

“Trafficking gangs are employing them to take people across in their own cars. The migrants pay a lot of money because it’s sold as guaranteed passage to the UK,” she added.

READ MORE: French govt to equip Calais shanty town with toilets, electricity, water

There are an estimated 3,000 migrants living in degrading conditions near Calais. These people are trying to cross illegally into the UK. However, the French government has ignited a row with Britain by saying they will spend €500,000 ($567,000) on the project. That money will go towards running water, street lighting, public toilets, and pre-fabricated huts. Aid workers will also be employed at the site.

London has hit out at the proposals, saying Calais will now become a “magnet” for migrants looking for a way to get across the English Channel. However, the mayor of Calais called on France to provoke a “diplomatic incident” with Britain on Monday. Natacha Bouchart said the UK should either join the Schengen zone or leave Europe altogether.

All MFL services are currently cancelled due to industrial action. We apologise to all customers for inconvenience caused.

— MyFerryLink (@MyFerryLink) June 23, 2015

She said the UK had not contributed any money at all for the migrant’s upkeep.

“I am calling for a diplomatic incident with the British government. We are forced to endure situations that are unsupportable,” she told French radio.

“Great Britain must either enter Europe with all the conditions of Schengen, or leave Europe, but there comes a time when we can no longer be held hostage,” she added, according to the Daily Telegraph.