CALAIS, France — The young Afghan has tried every single day for three months to get into the railway tunnel in Calais leading to England and what he hopes will be a better life. For him, like the dozens who appeared as darkness fell, Wednesday would be the same even if their numbers were immeasurably larger than even a week ago.

Undeterred by an influx of French riot police, a surveillance helicopter or a ninth death this summer among the tens of thousands who attempt to cross the Channel, the migrants came in groups of a dozen or more. Men and women, some hiding their faces beneath bandannas, walked single file to sneak over a bent fence along the train tracks leading to the tunnel and ultimately to England.

One migrant was crushed to death and another was critically injured after being electrocuted in Paris on Wednesday alone.

“Every day there’s a risk of life. People are losing their life. Accept them or reject them,” said 31-year-old Nazirullah. He said he arrived in Calais three months ago, speaking good English and claiming he had worked at the French Embassy back in Afghanistan.

Migrants pressing northward toward both countries are fleeing war, dictatorship and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. They tend to spend as little time as possible in their southern European landing spots, like Italy, where two ships unloaded on Wednesday, one carrying 435 passengers and 14 bodies and another with 692 migrants.

Many hit a dead end on the French side of the 30-mile Channel Tunnel, or Chunnel, which is used by passenger trains and freight services to connect France and Britain.

British officials have increasingly sounded the alarm over a potential influx of foreigners. French officials, meanwhile, are concerned about the roughly 3,000 migrants in encampments scattered haphazardly in the area.

It’s not clear how many ever reach Britain, although at least a few succeeded this week in stowing aboard trains to make the 35-minute trip.

France dispatched 120 riot police immediately to Calais to bolster security that British authorities complain has been lax. France’s government, meanwhile, called on Eurotunnel, the company that operates the tunnel, to step up its protection of the sensitive site.

By Wednesday night, a police helicopter hovered overhead and gendarmes in flak jackets turned back about two dozen.

Those caught on the French side are generally immediately freed to return to the camps and try again. Those caught on the in British side may be detained while their applications for asylum are considered. But many stay hidden aboard trucks as they roll off the trains until they stop for fuel, then hop off and vanish.

“Smugglers sell migrants the notion that Britain is the only El Dorado for a better life,” said Emmanuel Agrius, the deputy mayor of Calais.

Eurotunnel defended its efforts, saying Wednesday it had blocked more than 37,000 attempts since January.

There were wildly conflicting totals of people involved in Wednesday’s rush for the tunnel, ranging from 150 to as many as 1,200. But French authorities and the company agreed there had been about 2,000 attempts on each of two successive nights.

Attempts have been increasing exponentially as has the sense of crisis in recent weeks, spurred by new barriers around the Eurotunnel site, lack of access to the Calais port, labor strife that turned the rails into protest sites for striking workers, and an influx of migrants.

“This exceptional migrant situation has dramatic human consequences,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said. “Calais is a mirror of conflicts tearing up regions of the world.”

About 25 migrants were seen getting off a public bus in Calais early Wednesday with a police officer who left them by the side of the road. Several said they were returning from a night of trying to cross the Channel.

British Prime Minister David Cameron described the crisis as “very concerning,” but that there was no point in “pointing fingers of blame.”

The British government has agreed to provide an extra $11 million of funding for measures to improve security at Calais.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.