Calais Sees New Wave of Violence as Freight and Road Haulage Groups Appeal for Action

02 August 2016

FRANCE – UK – A week or so ago the Road Haulage Association (RHA) was welcoming the news that the new British Prime Minister supported Calais to remain Britain’s ‘gateway to Europe’. Now a few days of violence has shown that the tragedy engendered by the migrant situation has seen one Ethiopian man reportedly hacked to death and now a Belgian truck driver attacked with a chainsaw as unrest turned to outright rioting. The infamous Jungle camp, supposedly closed down, now hosts in excess of 7,000 people looking to get to the UK and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has once again appealed for increased efforts from the authorities.

The death of a man last week was accompanied by a fight which left six others seriously injured as around two hundred Afghans and Africans clashed. The recent violence saw burning barricades across the motorway into the Port of Calais as numbers in the camp rose to levels exceeding last year’s peak. The intention of blocking the road was apparently to slow vehicles long enough to board them and Chris Yarsley, FTA’s EU Affairs Manager, said:

“These drivers are just trying to do their job, moving goods from Europe to the UK through the country’s busiest port. Attacks like this are unacceptable and more needs to be done to protect them as they go about their work. A robust process must be put in place to quickly deal with applications from genuine asylum seekers rather than economic migrants and move them out of the camp. Relocating the camp away from the port would prevent the relentless attacks on commercial vehicles passing close by and allow our members to carry out their job without fear of attack or fines for unwittingly carrying migrants on their trucks.”

The reoccurrence of the troubles prompted Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart to once again promise to clean out the camp but previous efforts have seen the migrants unwilling to relocate, even when offered reasonable official accommodation, many expressing unwillingness to register for asylum in France. A recent suggestion to construct a wall some four metres high and stretching for a kilometre around the ferry port produced a negative response from the RHA with chief executive Richard Burnett commenting:

It is 12 months since I presented the Association’s demands to protect lorry drivers in Calais to the Home Affairs Select Committee. I am very disappointed that despite presenting a robust case for increased security at the Port, one year on UK-bound HGV drivers are still running the gauntlet of aggressive migrant activity on a daily basis.

“This latest proposal, supposedly costing £1.9M, would be a poor use of tax payers money. We made it clear to the Select Committee that security levels needed to be improved; not just within the Port perimeter but in the surrounding environs up to a distance of five kilometres. This advice now being given to members of the Association is that their drivers should not stop within 150 miles of the Port. It is imperative that the money to pay for a wall would be much better spent on increasing security along the approach roads.

“Of course we sympathise with the Calais businesses and residents whose lives and livelihoods are being blighted by migrant activity, despite a large part of the ‘Jungle’ being dismantled. However, our focus remains with the HGV drivers who now accept that physical threats are just a part of the job. This is morally wrong and cannot be allowed to continue.”