UK: Work to begin on Calais wall to stop Channel migrants

Police officers stand at the Eurotunnel entrance, in Calais, northern France, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. Britain and France are fortifying control of the Channel Tunnel and boosting intelligence efforts. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Police officers stand at the Eurotunnel entrance, in Calais, northern France, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. Britain and France are fortifying control of the Channel Tunnel and boosting intelligence efforts. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

LONDON (AP) — British officials say a 4 meter-high (13 foot-high) wall will be built to deter migrants trying to reach Britain from the northern French port of Calais.

Home Office Minister Robert Goodwill says the kilometer-long (0.6 mile-long) barrier is part of a 17 million pound ($23 million) package of security measures agreed to by Britain and France. He says construction will begin "very soon."

Thousands of people from the Middle East and Africa have traveled to Calais, hoping to reach Britain by stowing away on trucks and trains through the Channel Tunnel.

A British truckers' group says the wall is a poor use of money. Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said Wednesday that the funds "would be much better spent on increasing security along the approach roads."

Truckers, farmers, dock workers and merchants angry at the disruption caused by thousands of migrants in their midst in the northern French city blocked the main access route to Britain on Monday to press authorities to set the date to raze an overcrowded makeshift camp.

The action appeared to pay off and, despite tensions among protesters, blockades were being lifted 12 hours later after the region's top state official reassured the huge, makeshift camp would be dismantled and funds made available for struggling businesses.

The action with several hundred big rigs and tractors on a main access route was the first major protest of its kind in the city, for decades a magnet for migrants trying to cross the English Channel, hopping Britain-bound trucks and trains to get across. Authorities have poured in police — about 2,000 — to guard roadways, and built high barbed-wire fences to protect the Eurotunnel freight trains, the port and highway, but desperate migrants are using increasingly dangerous tactics to slow trucks and hitch a ride.

The state says some 7,000 migrants are living in the camp, known as "the jungle," while aid groups have put the number at more than 9,000. All are living in a drastically downsized camp after half was razed in March.

For the protesters, the migrants — from Africa, the Middle East and beyond — are an economic drain on Calais and a stain on its image.

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