Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel wants the French and British governments to reimburse it for close to 10 million euros ($11 million) it spent to beef up security to cope with a migrant crisis at the French port of Calais.
Around 5,000 migrants, fleeing war, political turmoil and poverty, are living in makeshift camps in and around Calais, making daily attempts to board lorries and trains heading to Britain where they hope to find work or claim asylum.
At least four people have died in and around the tunnel since the end of June.
As it unveiled a 9 percent rise in first-half core profit to 252 million euros ($275 million) on Wednesday, Eurotunnel said it spent 13 million euros on security in the period, the same as for the whole of last year.
Eurotunnel services have recently seen disruptions due to migrants attempting to reach Britain, and Chief Executive Jacques Gounon said that French authorities were not doing enough.
“Public authorities underestimate the migrant situation … There are not enough police on the ground. Our job is to be a transport company, not to do a police job,” he told a news conference.
Eurotunnel said it had made a request to the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission, the Franco-British regulator of economic and safety issues related to the tunnel, for 9.7 million euros to be reimbursed.
That would be in addition to 4.7 million euros, which Eurotunnel said the British government had agreed to pay to create a ‘secure zone’ at Calais to protect lorries heading for England.
“The increase in pressure from migrants in Calais led to disruption to services during June and could lead to further disruptions to traffic and to additional security expenditure in the second half of the year,” Eurotunnel said in a statement.
The French transport and interior ministries had no immediate comment.
Britain’s government did not respond directly to the Channel Tunnel request but said it had invested 12 million pounds ($18.72 million) in improving security at the Calais port and setting up fences to protect trains headed for Britain.
British police last week raised their estimate of the number of migrants in Calais to 5,000 from 3,000, a number Gounon said was more realistic than the 2,000 estimate from French authorities.
Migrants expect to find illicit employment in Britain’s shadow economy or claim asylum in a system often seen as more generous than the French equivalent.
Eurotunnel’s security issues have been exacerbated by a French ferry workers’ strike, which has blocked traffic around Calais. ($1 = 0.9123 euros) ($1 = 0.6410 pounds) (Additional reporting Gregory Blachier in Paris and William James in London; Editing by Andrew Heavens)”