Tuesday, November 22, 2016

With Migrant Camp in Calais Demolished Road Haulage Freight Outfits Return to Calais

Ferry Companies Report Rise in Trade as Attacks and Stowaway Numbers Diminish
Shipping News Feature
FRANCE – UK – The widely publicised dismantling of the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp outside the Port of Calais has had a dramatic effect on the number of stowaways trying to cross the English Channel to claim asylum or simply disappear into the UK. The port authorities say that migrants are now being found hidden aboard freight vehicles only twelve times weekly whereas previously the count was that number every single day. Road haulage representatives in Britain however are still concerned that security will be maintained at current levels for the foreseeable future.

A joint presentation by the Port Boulogne-Calais and the Port of Dover plus the two ferry companies which regularly run scheduled sailings to Britain, P&O Ferries and DFDS says the 87% drop in migrants detected is as a direct result of dismantling one the EU’s largest migrant camps, which was putting pressures on the four bodies which could not be sustained.

Another welcome fact is that there have been no reported assaults on drivers approaching the Port of Calais since the draconian action was taken. The number of attempts to enter the port’s premises has also greatly decreased with only 3 reported cases since 28 October. The partiality of the attackers to go about their business at night meant an imbalance of daytime traffic whilst the camp existed. Now night traffic figures have instantly risen by 26%. Jean-Marc Puissesseau, Chief Executive Officer of the Port Boulogne Calais, commented:

“The port could no longer function with a migrant camp this large and this close and we are therefore relieved by its dismantling. We have always worked to improve the port’s security but there is only so much that could be done at the port level. We are now thankfully back to a normal operation with safety fully back. I now hope that customer confidence will also return shortly.”

The French port boss was backed up by Pascal Devaux, P&O Ferries Calais Port Manager and Kasper Moos, managing director of DFDS in the UK whilst Tim Waggott, Chief Executive, Port of Dover, observed:

"The Dover-Calais route is a vital international trade and transport corridor. Dover handles £119 billion of trade in goods, with 75% going via Calais. This will always be the shortest crossing between the UK and mainland Europe. It is therefore essential that it is also a safe and secure gateway for the efficient movement of people and goods as we work to keep our economies moving."

The progress made has impressed the Road Haulage Association (RHA) which had lobbied hard for the closure of the camp as more and more drivers came under direct attack. The RHA says its members which switched away from the Dover Straits are cautiously re-appraising their decision, and some are starting to return. RHA chief executive Richard Burnett clearly appreciated the improvement whilst sounding a note of caution, saying:

“It’s good to be able to say something really positive about Calais, We will of course continue to monitor the situation closely. The key is to ensure that the ‘Jungle’ camp is not allowed to be re-established. The problems over the past two years have been awful for everyone, including the migrants, desperate to get to the UK by whatever means possible.

“However, on a recent fact finding visit to the Port, the overall concern of those UK-bound HGV drivers that we spoke to was that the current situation, although very welcome, may well be short lived. Hauliers and drivers must remain vigilant and plan ahead. The RHA strongly urges firms involved in UK-continental work to sign up to the UK Border Force Code of Practice and Accreditation Scheme. While they are not perfect, they are appropriate. The RHA has been working with UKBF on gathering intelligence on the migrants and the criminal gangs who often direct them and we will continue to do so.”

The problem of migrants attempting to enter the UK illegally has not gone away but for now, the Calais area is no longer such a migrant hot-spot. The threat is now more dispersed but it appears that organised gangs are still active in trying to get migrants to get on-board vehicles when they park for breaks. Overall instructions as to how to deal with the problem can be read by road haulage operators on the UK government site.

Photo: The ‘Great Wall of Calais’, protection from migrant incursions erected on the port’s entrance roads.