Police spray migrants with chemical irritant in Calais

French riot police sprayed migrants with a chemical irritant as they tried to storm the Channel Tunnel.

The migrants — who broke down several security fences late on Saturday night — were forced to retreat by riot police as they attempted to breach the final fence near the entrance of the 50km tunnel under the English Channel.

The migrants, estimated to number around 200, faced off for close to an hour with security forces, chanting slogans including: “Open the border” and “We are not animals.”

Thousands of migrants have been scaling fences near the tunnel in recent weeks, trying to hop on freight trains or trucks destined for Britain. One man was fatally crushed by a truck.

Most of the migrants have fled war, dictatorship, and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, entering Europe Greece or Italy before heading north.

Many think Britain offers the best prospects, because of the English language, the welfare benefits, and the perceived ease of getting a job.

The migrant activity at the tunnel — combined with a series of strikes by French ferry workers — have disrupted freight and passenger traffic, and spurred both governments to promise higher fences, more surveillance cameras, and extra security guards.

Britain and France have combined to call for international efforts to address “a global migration crisis” which has seen thousands of people trying to force their way into the Channel Tunnel in an effort to reach the UK.

Downing Street announced that the UK will fund additional private security guards, fencing, and CCTV cameras to improve security at the terminal, while more French police are to be deployed to the border over the summer.

And a consultation has been launched on stripping financial support from the families of migrants who fail in their applications for asylum.

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