Striking Ferry Workers Shut Channel Tunnel, Blockade Calais Port

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June 23, 2015

ReutersLILLE, France, June 23 (Reuters) – Traffic was halted through the Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France on Tuesday after striking French ferry workers set fire to tires, while Britain’s Foreign Office warned of migrants trying to get into vehicles queuing to enter the tunnel.

British television showed large crowds of migrants trying to board waiting lorries, while others were held back by riot police.

Around 400 workers blockaded the port of Calais to protest restructuring at its MyFerryLink division, the Syndicat Maritime Nord union said.

Shipping was halted early in the day, the Calais port authority said. Both Eurotunnel and Eurostar later suspended their services because of the disruption.

“Traffic in the tunnel is suspended because of burning tires, which are the result of port workers,” a spokeswoman for Eurotunnel said. That incident was at the entrance of the terminal, she said.

The union opposes plans by Eurotunnel to sell two of MyFerryLink’s three passenger vessels to Denmark’s DFDS and convert the third to freight, cutting jobs.

Eurotunnel “understands very well the concerns of the port workers,” the company spokeswoman said. “We hope that there will be suitable job proposals tomorrow,” she said, referring to a meeting planned for Wednesday.

Britain issued travel advice that warned migrants were using the disruption to try and board queuing vehicles.

“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 Foreign Office said.

“We are seeing the usual phenomenon – some migrants are trying to climb into lorries stopped in traffic jams on the motorway leading to the tunnel,” the police press office in Arras said. “They’re trying to hide in lorries in particular.” (Reporting by Pierre Savary, Yves Clarisse and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Larry King)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2015.

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