ITN’s decision to send its correspondent Tim Rogers to Calais paid off at the weekend after he sent back exclusive footage of up to 100 asylum seekers breaking through security fencing in a bid to reach the Channel Tunnel.
Rogers, ITN’s Wales and West of England correspondent, was the only broadcast journalist present when the men breached the railway line security late on Saturday night and made their way towards the tunnel opening on the French side.
The footage, which showed the group clambering over the embankment before walking along the tracks towards the mouth of the tunnel, has been used by other broadcasters around the world and has been shown on French television. It will be a boost to ITN, which is waiting for a decision from ITV on whether it will continue to supply its news or if Channel 3 News’s bid has been a success.
The decision to send Rogers to report on the Red Cross centre at Sangatte, two miles from the Eurostar terminal in Coquelles, was taken the day after 44 asylum seekers were discovered walking through the tunnel.
"There was a clear momentum to the story and we felt it was important to send someone out there," said Nigel Dacre, editor of ITN.
"It was a bit of a miss for the other broadcasters. Perhaps people were distracted by the football."
Rogers had been at the camp when he spotted groups of up to a dozen asylum seekers, many of them Iraqis, beginning to walk towards the tunnel.
"It seemed to us they had a single purpose so we decided to wait on the bridge," said Rogers.
"Then they started what they call an ‘attack’.
"The reason for it is still not clear. It could have been a diversionary tactic or a demonstration of the frustration there is here at what’s happening."
Along with his cameraman, Rob Dukes, Rogers was pelted with stones when they were spotted filming on the bridge.
"Some of them took exception to us being there," he said.
"We decided it wasn’t safe to stay, so we had to break off filming before they got to the tunnel entrance.
"It’s an important story, but it’s one of those things that you could be waiting and waiting for pictures and get nothing," said Rogers.