Five migrants were shot during a brawl involving people smugglers in Calais, in what the French government called an ‘unbearable’ escalation of violence in the port that serves as a gateway to Britain.
Armed people smugglers were being hunted on Friday after causing a bloodbath that put 22 UK-bound migrants in hospital, five with gunshot wounds.
Four Eritreans, who were shot in the neck, chest, abdomen and spine, were in critical condition in intensive care, authorities said.
Surgeons fought to save their lives following a series of fights between mainly Afghans and Eritreans who want to claim asylum in Britain.
Despite this, not a single arrest was made in connection with the giant brawl, with those responsible still at large. Police were searching for a 37-year-old Afghan suspected of the shooting.
Shots were fired during the first fight Thursday between about 100 Eritreans and some 30 Afghans queueing for free meals at a distribution point near the town’s hospital at around 3.30pm local time.
The authorities suspect that traffickers mixed in with the crowd.
Shortly afterwards, a second fight broke out at an industrial site around five kilometres (three miles) away, with more than a hundred African migrants armed with iron rods and sticks setting on a group of around 20 Afghans, prosecutors said.
Police intervened to protect the Afghans, the authorities said.
France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb visited the scene of the violence near a food distribution point, saying it was the worst in the port town for years.
‘We have reached an escalation of violence that has become unbearable for people from Calais and migrants,’ said Collomb.
Speaking outside the main Calais police station late on Thursday night, he added: ‘This is a level of violence that hasn’t been seen before.
‘I have come here to reaffirm our mobilisation against the smugglers who feed daily violence and brawls.’
Collomb, who met with security force members and immigration officials in Calais, on Thursday accused the traffickers who charge the migrants hefty sums to secure passage to England, of ‘fuelling daily violence and brawls’.
‘This is a level of violence never seen before,’ he said.