09 January 2018

Road Haulage Boss Gets TV Spot to Warn of Continuing Migrant Problems in Calais  

Despite Stringent Measures Some Violence Toward Truckers Continues

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Shipping News Feature FRANCE – UK – Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett today had the chance to reveal on national television the true state of play with regard to the continuing migrant problems faced by drivers in the front line when en route to the UK. Speaking on the Victoria Derbyshire programme, the RHA boss was keen to make the point that although the problem may have dropped below the gaze of the media, it certainly hasn't gone away. 

In the past few months we have seen several factors which negatively influence the continuing struggle of migrants from an assortment of countries, and with varied reasons for their intentions. These include the removal of the infamous ‘Jungle’ camp at Calais in 2016, the refusal by the French authorities to allow charities to hand out tents and clothing and thus encourage a new unofficial encampment, a clampdown on undocumented staff working in the UK, and of course the fall in the pound and the uncertainty over Brexit, all of which makes Britain a less appealing prospect to try and settle in illegally.

Mr Burnett made the point that the would-be infiltrators have no compunction over the methods they use and a total disregard for the safety of themselves or the HGV drivers on whom they prey. He also intimated that there was unrest amongst the road freight community that the French authorities were sometimes acting irresponsibly when checking for stowaways. He said:

“Drivers are still being attacked on a daily basis. People traffickers are rife and they will attempt to stop trucks by whatever means possible. We get regular reports of traffickers throwing rocks, putting boulders in the road – even lying in the road so that the vehicles have no alternative but to stop. This is a humanitarian issue and neither the French nor the British governments are doing enough. It’s also a humanitarian issue for the drivers who just want to do their job in safety but they still face violence and intimidation on a daily basis. It’s not what they signed up for.

“The British government needs to be influencing its French counterparts. The British government at the moment is like a revolving door in terms of the number of immigration ministers we have worked with during the past few years. It’s difficult to build relationships, to influence, to make the necessary changes. Also from our perspective, there is intelligence and evidence to show that the heartbeat monitors at the French border are being switched off allowing migrants to pass through. Why? Because it’s easier and because they don’t want to deal with the issue.

“That’s just not good enough. The issue must be dealt with, the migrants must be processed quickly and the RHA will be doing all it possibly can to ensure that the Summer of 2018 doesn’t bring continued misery for truckers.”

Lorry drivers face a £2,000 penalty for every stowaway found in their vehicle and in one six month period in 2015 Eurotunnel apprehended 37,000 migrants attempting to cross into Britain and at least one driver has been killed with many others suffering injuries. Many residents of the Jungle camp relocated to the La Liniere camp at Dunkirk. Costing €4 million this was established by French authorities to coincide with closing the Calais camp and opened in March 2016 but was completely destroyed by fire in April last year after a riot by Afghan and Kurdish residents who were apparently fighting each other.

These camps have all been severely criticised for a range of reasons, not least accusations of children ‘disappearing’ together with rapes, beatings and stabbings. The ethnic mix was also cited as a contributory factor for the ongoing problems and the predecessor of La Liniere was the nearby Basroch refugee camp, known as the worst in Europe and universally condemned for its appalling living conditions.

Photo: A drone's eye view of part of the Jungle camp prior to its closure.

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