By Dominique Vidalon
Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel said it has asked the French and British governments to pay it back close to 10 million euros ($11 million) in security costs as it tries to cope with a migrant crisis at the port of Calais.
Dislocated by war, political turmoil and poverty, some 3,000 migrants are living in makeshift camps in and around the French port city, and every day attempts are made to board lorries and trains heading to the UK.
They 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.
As it unveiled a 9 percent rise in first-half core profit on Wednesday, Eurotunnel said it spent 13 million euros on security in the period, the same as for the whole of last year.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
Eurotunnel said it had made a request for 9.7 million euros to be reimbursed, adding that the UK government had already agreed to pay 4.7 million euros.
“Public authorities underestimate the migrant situation,” Chief Executive Jacques Gounon told a conference call.
The problem has been exacerbated by a French ferry workers’ strike, which has blocked traffic around Calais. Employees of the Eurotunnel-owned MyFerryLink service – whose ferries the company plans to sell – temporarily blocked French road access to the undersea rail tunnel on Tuesday.
Overall, Eurotunnel said business remained “dynamic”, driven by the recovery in the UK economy and partly in the euro zone, although it warned that the “large concentration of migrants in the Calais area” may “continue to cause disruptions”.
The company kept its goal for higher profit this year and next. First-half earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) reached 252 million euros, in line with the average of analyst forecasts in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll. It is aiming for EBITDA of 535 million euros this year and 580 million in 2016, against 498 million last year.
First-half revenue rose 9 percent to 649 million euros, with traffic growing 8 percent for truck shuttles and 13 percent for freight trains.