Exasperation in Calais as Britain-bound migrants pour in

"Fed up", an expression that comes up again and again in the French port city of Calais where residents are faced with a growing tide of hungry, penniless migrants sleeping rough.

Whether fleeing wars or repression, hundreds of asylum-seekers have trekked across Europe to the northern city over the past months, camping out in flimsy tents as they wait for an opportunity to cross the Channel and complete their final journey to Britain.

Up to 2,300 migrants are thought to be in Calais and surrounding areas, overwhelming security forces as they make regular attempts to mob the port en masse to try and scramble onto trucks boarding ferries to Britain.

"Today we are in a very, very, very serious situation and I'm not afraid to ask Francois Hollande, President of the Republic, to come to Calais and see for himself," said Laurent Roussel, a bar owner and opposition councillor.

"There's a lot of discussion, a lot of chat here and there, but nothing is changing and Calais residents are fed up. Really, really fed up."

- Hunt for work in Britain -

This week, police resorted to tear gas to break up acrimonious fights among migrants, sealing off an industrial zone where many had sought refuge in an incident that prompted emergency reinforcements to be sent to the city, where riot police are now patrolling the centre.

Adding to the general unrest, a 16-year-old Ethiopian girl was killed Monday night after being hit by a car while crossing a motorway in the area, police said.

Like many others in Calais, Ali, a migrant from Afghanistan, sees Britain as an eldorado with good employment opportunities.

"We want to go to England because we don't have a job," he said, a black and white scarf wrapped over his head to keep the chill out. Many migrants also have family or people they know in Britain.

But the situation has reached boiling-point as the number of migrants rises rapidly.

The reason? "There's the good sailing season when the weather is a bit better, which peaks in the summer," says Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.

"And if they landed in the Mediterranean, by now they have arrived in places like Calais.

"This has also been a particularly bad time with the chaos in Libya and conflicts in Syria and Iraq."

The sheer number of migrants from Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and other countries has sparked tensions between different nationalities and led to battles for control of areas where they sleep rough.

The influx has also given rise to anti-immigration sentiment, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Friday visited Calais, a city she described as having been abandoned.

"We are not taking stock of the population's despair... We must regain control of our borders," she said.

- 'Winter is coming' -

The problem in Calais is not new -- illegal camps of migrants have sprung up in the area ever since French authorities closed down the infamous Sangatte immigrant detention centre in 2002.

This former hangar run by the French Red Cross used to be home to a perpetually renewing population of migrants -- many of them Afghans and Iraqi Kurds who hoped to sneak through the Channel tunnel to Britain.

The centre had been a thorn in the side of British and French ties and was eventually demolished.

But Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart warned Thursday that "managing the situation is not possible anymore."

Claude Gareau, a local resident, pointed out that when the Sangatte centre was still operational, the migrants had somewhere to go.

"But now what's going to happen? They're here and there, winter is coming. It's going to be hell."

Charities are working to help migrants with food handouts, but they too are overwhelmed.

Authorities have announced they will open a day facility to allow migrants access to health care, toilets and bathrooms, but appear to have so far ruled out any permanent 24-hour centre.