Thursday, November 12, 2015

Migrant Violence Sees Road Haulage Operators Attacked and Freight Associations Up In Arms

Calais is a 'War Zone' with Film of the Situation from a Truck Drivers Cab
Shipping News Feature
FRANCE – As so often happens, today’s newspapers are tomorrow's chip wrappers, and so it seems with news of the migrant situation in Calais and surrounds. Now that reinforced security at the Eurotunnel terminal had been assumed to have taken effect, the eyes of the press are focused elsewhere, but the rise in violence this week, with freight trucks, drivers and even police under attack, the area is now most aptly described as a war zone. Both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) have been warning for some time that such an escalation of violence would likely result in more deaths if not policed convincingly.

This video, shows an RHA member running the gauntlet this week after 250 French riot police were sent to the area to try and prevent thousands of migrants stopping traffic and attempting to smuggle themselves aboard vehicles. Clearly visible are the rocks being thrown by the migrants and the wipers juddering with the impact of missiles and the road is strewn with large pieces of debris, any of which could cause an accident. Violent clashes on Sunday and Monday saw at least 26 officers injured whilst FTA personnel bore witness to individuals freely wandering in areas within the protective fence paid for with £7 million of British tax payers money.

£89 billion worth of UK trade passes through Calais on a yearly basis. In the past 12 months the FTA has written to the Mayor of Calais, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister calling for action on the worsening situation for its members at the port. The Association estimates that around £750,000 a day was lost to the UK freight industry at the height of the crisis in June and July when Operation Stack was put in place on the M20 for 28 days. FTA’s Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham said:

“This is utterly unacceptable. Calais is back in crisis and truck operators and their drivers are again in the firing line - sometimes literally. The reported actions of migrants has crossed a line. Whatever your views on the plight of migrants and asylum seekers no-one has a right to threaten, intimidate or physically attack drivers and other innocent bystanders. The FTA expects and demands safe passage for truck drivers and other port users going about their lawful business. This must be the primary concern of French and British governments before someone gets seriously injured, or even killed."

Euan Fleming, who works for Blair Transport in Belfast, described how drivers had been attacked with crow bars and threatened with being shot if they used their horns to draw attention to migrants breaking into trucks. Mr Fleming said:

“Your heart is in your mouth when you drive through Calais, but we have no choice than to travel through the port and I absolutely dread being here. It is common place to see gangs of migrants armed with weapons, they have attacked my own truck using Stanley knives to cut holes into the roof to get into the trailer.”

The RHA welcomed the increase in security on the ground at the Port of Calais but said measures currently being taken are not enough to protect drivers. It is concerned that this is actively reflected in the growing numbers of migrants, increasingly frustrated that their efforts to gain access to UK-bound trucks are being thwarted. RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett commented:

“This has become an absolutely untenable situation, we are now getting reports of extreme violent migrant activity on a daily basis. During the summer I visited Calais several times to see for myself the mayhem caused by migrants and it became clear that the situation changes on an almost hourly basis. We therefore took the decision to send a member of our own staff over to Calais to monitor the situation first hand. As we predicted several months ago, it is the Port approach roads that need increased security. Last night our ‘observer’ spoke to drivers who have witnessed migrants standing on Port approach road bridges, throwing rocks onto truck windscreens, forcing them to stop. This situation must be resolved now – waiting until someone gets killed is simply not an option.”

Mr Burnett then quoted a report from the RHA member who witnessed the scenes personally, Toby Ovens, Director, Broughton Transport Solutions who said:

“The situation in Calais was dire on Tuesday night, I had two drivers attacked by missiles thrown by immigrants at my vehicles and damage done to the vehicle. One of the drivers was female and they attempted to open the doors to her vehicle and when they didn’t succeed they attacked the vehicle leaving her very shaken. This situation is completely unacceptable. We as hauliers need someone we can go to and sort this situation, I am on the verge of pulling out of European haulage, my family have been operating abroad for the last 30+ years but now I feel the time has come where I cannot continue to put my drivers at risk, I have no doubt that soon someone will get killed. Calais is a lawless place, the police in Calais were just watching immigrants attack vehicles last night.”