Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Road Haulage Boss Speaks Out on Latest Migrant Violence and Effect on Freight Movement

Police Use Tear Gas as Jungle Camp Torn Down
Shipping News Feature
FRANCE – UK – Actions by a number of activists are ramping up tensions and violence at the Calais migrant camp known as the ‘Jungle’ according to witness reports, whilst police used tear gas for the second day on protestors who were objecting to the temporary shelters on site being torn down. Despite the level of violence the Road Haulage Association (RHA) says it remains fully supportive of the pledge made by Xavier Bertrand, President of France’s Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, to clear the camp, in the light of the ongoing dangers to freight truck drivers.

The French authorities have however denied that this latest action is intended to clear the migrants from French soil. The newer facilities being provided include dwellings constructed from shipping containers and offers have been made to rehouse many migrants in over 100 asylum centres throughout France, something which many of the refugees apparently object to as they wish to seek asylum in the UK.

The latest scenes saw police firing tear gas at a mob of around 150 stone throwing protestors and RHA chief executive Richard Burnett remains concerned at the level of violence still aimed at truck drivers trying to access the Port of Calais commenting:

“It is essential that the number of migrants in the camp is reduced as quickly as possible. This will reduce the number of migrants and thereby reduce the number of attacks on HGV drivers. It will also make it easier for the French security forces to contain the situation. Of course, it is absolutely essential that any children and other vulnerable people currently living in the camp are given clean, safe accommodation and access to facilities that are currently unavailable to them. For the citizens of Calais, families will be able to walk the streets without fear of intimidation. And the Calais economy itself will once again benefit as businesses that have suffered as a result of the deterrent effect, return to normal”.

“The cost to both the UK and French economy as a whole since the Calais crisis began has been massive. In particular, the financial losses suffered by UK-bound hauliers on a daily basis as a result of migrants climbing on-board trucks and damaging loads has cost transport operators and their customers millions of pounds. In addition, the emotional, and often physical cost to HGV drivers has been considerable. We regularly hear of drivers who quite simply refuse to travel through this critical freight route because they no longer want to put their lives at risk. And why should they?”

The tragedy of this situation is that the estimated 3,400 migrants affected by the closure of the Jungle camp includes around 400 unaccompanied children, the real victims in an horrific situation which needs a political solution.

Photo: The new site where heated shipping containers await an influx of the dispossessed.