Wednesday, May 27, 2015

As EU Studies Migrant Crisis the UK Freight Community Has Concerns on Supply Chain Delays

Build Up of Refugees in Calais Means Slower Truck Borne Cargo Checks
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – On the day the EU hears a proposal to move up to 40,000 fleeing migrants expected to arrive in Greece and Italy, principally from Syria and Eritrea, over the next two years, the subject of immigration into the UK has been highlighted by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) regarding the reliability of the cross Channel supply chain, as pressure builds on the authorities to increase checks on trucks importing cargo from the continent thus slowing the entire import process.

Britain, together with Ireland and Denmark, will not be voting on the issue before the EU, namely a plan to redistribute 24,000 immigrants from Italy and 16,000 from Greece who are expected to arrive in the next two years. With fleeing migrant numbers into Italy up almost 280% in 2014 against the previous year (60% of the total influx) and Greek figures rising over 150% (19% of the total of known refugees) the EU must choose where these people can be relocated to ease the pressure on those two countries.

The UK is exempt from the common asylum policy yet has its own migrant problem. Calais is still a favoured jumping off point for those bent on entering Britain and the reaction to the latest trend in upward numbers of stowaways has led to the ferry terminals and Eurotunnel to increase checks on vehicles prior to embarkation, something which the FTA says slows down the processing of inward bound trucks and threatens the reliability of the UK supply chain both to and from Europe.

The FTA has welcomed the moves by Eurotunnel and the UK ferry operators who are reportedly looking at ways to increase secure parking areas as a matter of urgency, both are providing additional space, but, as UK trade continues to improve, more HGVs are travelling to and from the UK. In addition to the bottleneck of vehicles the FTA’s worry is that, without sufficient security measures for drivers ensuring them a safe passage home, the safety of the drivers themselves is threatened.

The static migrant population in Calais has risen to around 3,000, as those fleeing North Africa and Middle East make their way to the port in the hope of crossing the Channel to Britain. The UK Border Force and French authorities have a good working relationship but it is clear that resources are stretched, and the FTA insists that more is needed to be done as a matter of urgency. FTA’s International Affairs Manager, Donald Armour, said:

“The UK Government really must insist on greater proactive involvement by the responsible French authorities; if they don’t act soon the UK supply chain could be in serious danger of being very badly disrupted. With an estimated 3,000 migrants now living rough in Calais the surrounding area, the FTA’s principle concern is the safety of drivers attempting to travel safely through the port and trying to avoid stowaways hitching a ride on a lorry into the UK. We don’t believe that truck drivers should be made to act as unpaid immigrations officers”