Migrants board Calais ferry in bid to get to Britain
Dozens of migrants briefly boarded a moored ferry in the northern French port of Calais on Saturday in a bid to reach Britain before police removed them from the ship, officials said.
The boarding -- a rare occurrence in the heavily-guarded port -- came after some 2,000 people protested nearby over living conditions in a notoriously squalid camp known as "the Jungle".
"A group of 500 people forced their way through police lines and headed to the port, and 150 people were able to get into the fenced-off area. Of these, a group of some 50 managed to board a ferry," the prefecture, representing the French state, official told AFP.
Operations at Calais, France's main passenger port, were halted while the migrants were "calmly removed" by police around two hours later, the port said in a statement.
It estimated that between 30 and 40 migrants had boarded the "Spirit of Britain" ferry, operated by P&O.
"The removal operation is now over. No more migrants are on the vessel," the port statement said.
The company said the ship had just crossed from Dover, on the English side of the Channel, and "a few trucks" were still onboard but there were no passengers when the boarding occurred.
An AFP reporter saw a group of migrants blocking the gangway in the bow of the ship to try to prevent police from getting on board.
About 80 police from the CRS riot squad installed another gangway and then boarded the vessel.
The prefecture said 24 migrants and 11 members of a pro-migrant movement called the No Borders Network were taken to a police station. Cross-Channel ferry traffic resumed at around 8.30 pm (1930 GMT).
Port director Jean-Marc Puissesseau called for "the Jungle" to be relocated.
"The proximity of the camp and the unprecedented number of migrants make it impossible to secure the (port) infrastructure, however much the state invests," he told AFP.
Earlier, some 2,000 protesters had gathered to demand "dignified living conditions" for the camp's estimated 4,000 migrants, most of them from North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Among the protesters were people from Britain, France, Belgium and Italy.
"We are here in solidarity and to denounce the inaction of the French state, which does not have the will to ensure a better life for the refugees," said Rino, a 22-year-old student from Italy who had come to Calais by bus.
"Refugees welcome", "Calais, Lesbos, Lampedusa, our borders kill", "Open the borders, let them in," read the protesters' banners.
- 'Worse than animals' -
"No Jungle, no Jungle!" cried migrants who joined in the protests.
"Here, we live worse than animals," said Wali from Afghanistan.
Baraa, a Syrian refugee, said he was "happy" to see "all these people here to support us."
"Their presence will make things move,and put pressure on the European Union to make things change here in Calais," he added.
British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile on Saturday visited the neighbouring town of Dunkirk, which is home to another camp named the Grande Synthe.
Corbyn, a veteran left-wing campaigner before becoming Labour leader, said he wanted to "understand the nature of the refugee crisis that's facing the whole of Europe".
He said that Britain should do more to address the problem.
"We have got people here who have been here for months, if not longer than that, with no proper education, no access to doctors, no access to dentists, limited access to food -- in very cold, very wet conditions," Corbyn said.
"These conditions are a disgrace anywhere. We as human beings have to reach out to fellow human beings."
© 2016 AFP