As an aftermath of the enormous gatherings and lack of social distancing during the holiday season and Christmas celebrations, people didn’t take necessary precautions and the Omicron cases in Britain were on the rise. So travel restrictions on Britons through France is held.
What is the Eurotunnel?
It is also known as Channel Tunnel or more conveniently as “Chunnel.” It is the third largest tunnel in the world and connects Folkestone (UK, England) with Coquelles (France) beneath the English Channel at the State of Dover. And It serves as a permanent link between Great Britain and the European mainland. This tunnel carries Eurostar passenger trains, the Eurotunnel Shuttle for road vehicles and international freight.
Eurotunnel Travel Restrictions
The tunnel operators warned British citizens travelling from the UK to their homes in the EU that they wouldn’t be allowed passage through France in their cars through the Eurotunnel, Euostar or ferry. This was primarily claimed to be a result of the restrictions the French government imposed due to the spread of newer strains of Coronavirus. France reported 206,243 new coronavirus cases on Thursday in the latest 24-hour period, rising above 200,000 for the second day running as Omicron took hold. The Channel Rail link’s operator Getlink immediately posted on both their website and Twitter portal about the updates regarding the recent travel bans by the French government and travel restrictions on Britons through France.
The French Government posted their decision on 28th December, 2021 that unless Britons have a French residency, they are considered third country citizens and will not be allowed transit through France to regions in the EU. This move was confirmed by a spokesperson from the French interior ministry conveying to the news that many of the British nationals living in any country of the EU have travelled in “good faith” to UK for the festive season and are being troubled while returning to their country of residency. Over the holidays many people returned to Britain to spend time with friends and family without being aware of these new limitations that France had imposed on non-residents. This is because Britain was not out of the EU bloc and its citizens were at a disadvantage of these policies.
What are the “Compelling Reasons?”
The regulation allowed transit for anyone who was a European Union national or had parents and children that have a residency in France or who travel through France to reach their residence in any of the countries part of the EU. These people were given precedence to travel through France naming it as “compelling reasons.” All trade, tourism and business travel from Britain was suspended from 18th December, 2021 as France tried to curtail the spread of the Omicron variant. The people living in any other country which is a member of the EU such as Germany, Italy, Spain or Belgium needed to show the evidence of their residency such as through utility bills or residence permit. The British government informed on its website that Britons will not be allowed to transit France unless they are traveling by air.
This modification in their travel policies which were not announced explicitly caught many Britons off guard who wanted to return from visiting their homes and many of them felt completely lost and displaced. The French government had not confirmed any alterations that they made to the travelling policy as the Eurotunnel later announced that the ban did not apply to the British people living in France or to the UK citizens who also had an EU passport due to dual nationality. Eurostar, the passenger train service that many Britons embark upon to return to their dwellings in Belgium or elsewhere, has also warned the users a month prior about this unexpected French policy change. However, it is not clear at all if these changes were to be systematically enacted at the three Eurostar stations in England.
Ulterior motives behind the France travel restrictions
A twitter user who was turned away at the last minute by the French officials while trying to board the Eurotunnel shuttle posted an update that he managed to get on a train to return to Brussels. However, Roland Moore, a public relations executive at Belgium explained that according to the FR customs, they had been handed the paper clarifying the “compelling reasons” for travel in the last few hours. This is why they were very frustrated.
Nevertheless, it was hinted at that there was a bone of contention between Paris and London over a range of irksome topics such as fishing and illegal immigration since Britain exited the EU some two years ago. This gave rise to suspicions for some travelers wondering if this new French policy was a tussle between the two opposing countries. Fiona Navin-Jones, a school teacher who was returning to Belgium where she lived with her family for 14 years felt disoriented and confused. She sympathized with the families based in Belgium who had a residency but no passport. She very blatantly stated, “French rules still stink. You can quote me.” So travel restrictions on Britons through France is held.