Fatality warning amid Calais crisis

The Strike Action In Calais Causes Chaos Once More
The Strike Action In Calais Causes Chaos Once More

Someone will end up being killed unless security is bolstered to protect lorry drivers amid the escalating migrant crisis in Calais, British haulage officials said.

French authorities have faced claims they are not doing enough to safeguard truckers from intimidation, violence and attempts by migrants to climb on to UK-bound HGVs.

The latest problems in Calais saw around 150 migrants cause disruption and cancellations to Channel Tunnel services yesterday when they tried to storm the French terminal.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has suggested deployment of the French military to boost security in the port city amid fears a fatality could occur.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett, who recently visited Calais to see the problems first-hand, said: "I think it's a desperate situation for truck drivers.

"Put yourself in their situation - you are on your own trying to get through and you've got 20 migrants around your truck trying to get on, and you're on your own trying to get them off.

"They are intimidating, some of them have metal bars, knives and, in one incident, a gun was pointed at a trucker."

He added: "Somebody is going to get killed. I think things are beginning to boil over."

Mr Burnett said Britain is seen as "too attractive a place" for migrants to come to, and he called for a long-term solution involving governments and the EU.

The crisis has escalated in recent weeks in Calais, with around 3,000 people displaced from countries including Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan setting up camp near the port.

Amid mounting calls for a solution, Keith Vaz, the Home Affairs Select Committee chairman, visited Calais yesterday and met its deputy mayor Philippe Mignonet.

The latest incident caused the return of queues on the M20 in Kent for lorry drivers trying to cross the Channel after police reintroduced Operation Stack, which was later lifted.

The disruption came in the week that more than 3,000 truckers had to queue for several days in high temperatures on the M20 following a wildcat strike by ferry workers in France.

All phases of Operation Stack had only been lifted for a matter of hours before the migrants attempted to storm the Chunnel terminal.

The bold attempt by migrants led to renewed calls for authorities to act to solve the worsening crisis, which is costing the UK economy millions of pounds.

The Fresh Produce Consortium estimates that £10 million of fresh fruit and vegetables have been thrown away since the start of the year as a result of the problems in Calais.

And Port of Dover officials said last week's ferry strike cost the UK economy £1 billion.

They have joined calls for "robust contingency plans" to be introduced to ensure the port - a £100 billion trade route - can work unimpeded by others.

Dan Cook, operations director of Europa Worldwide Group, a transport, distribution and logistics firm, said "marauding mobs" are effectively halting British trade to the continent.

He said: "We have had vehicles on the motorway in broad daylight being surrounded by marauding mobs racing around, opening doors, cutting trailers, climbing into the back.

"We have experienced quite a bit of theft and damage to customers' products. You're looking at not only the damage to equipment but also claims from customers as well."

He added: "The fundamental problem is that there is no sign of any active policing to stop this happening in Calais. There is no security from the army, police or whoever to protect what is the gateway to trade."

He said the French authorities need to provide adequate security to allow drivers to pass through the key trade route to the continent.

Mr Cook added: "I don't believe that in 2015 we should accept mobs just stopping trade moving from one place to another. I think there is a duty of care."

Following the weekend incident, a Eurotunnel spokesman said: "Eurotunnel reiterates its call to the authorities to provide a solution to the migrant crisis and restore order to the Calais region."

The Strike Action In Calais Causes Chaos Once More
The Strike Action In Calais Causes Chaos Once More

Home Secretary Theresa May and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve this week agreed to increase the joint intervention fund to improve security around the port and the Channel Tunnel.

French aid workers have reported a "catastrophic" situation, with predictions that 2,000 more migrants could arrive over the summer at the camp, dubbed Jungle II.

Volunteers from l'Auberge des Migrants say up to 50 new migrants are arriving every day at the camp, and there are not enough tents, blankets or food.

Dover Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke has said the problems underline the need to consider expanding the port at Dunkirk, 45 miles from Calais.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Law and order in and around Calais is the responsibility of the French authorities, but the UK continues to work with its French counterparts to strengthen the security of the border to stop illegal immigrants entering the UK.

"Earlier this week the Home Secretary and the French interior minister agreed to increase the joint fund which has already allowed for the strengthening of security at the Port of Calais and which will reinforce security at the Channel Tunnel.

"Alongside this resolute action we are also tackling the roots of this problem by increasing joint intelligence work with the French to target the organised crime gangs."