A group of about 100 refugees rushed to the motorway leading to the Eurotunnel on Thursday (21 January) in the hope of boarding trucks on their way to the United Kingdom, but were pushed back by police firing tear gas at them. Thousands of refugees fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have gathered in or near the northern coastal town of Calais over the past year, using it as a stop-over point before trying to enter Britain in the hope of a better life.

Many have tried repeatedly to cross the English Channel by jumping onto lorries, hiding on trains before they enter the Channel Tunnel or walking through the tunnel, where security was ramped up in October 2015. Since then, incidents on the road between Calais and its port have become more frequent, especially near a slum known as "the jungle" where around 4,000 refugees camp.

Many believe they would have a better life in the UK than in the EU countries on the European mainland. But as a western outpost of the crisis, the Calais camp has become its focus for France and Britain, where fears that immigrants will suck up public resources and overwhelm local culture are helping extreme right political parties grow in popularity.