Monday, April 4, 2016

As Road Haulage Freight Drivers Face Fresh Migrant Attacks Minister Reviews Calais Personally

After More Violence Stakeholders Give Their Views Directly to Government
Shipping News Feature
UK – FRANCE – Last week we gave details of the current government consultation requesting the views of the logistics community on the migrant situation in Calais as it looks to review the penalties it imposes on hauliers whose trucks are found to be carrying their illicit human cargo. Now Immigration Minister James Brokenshire, who is to be lead speaker at the Pan-European conference in London dedicated to this very problem which takes place later this month, is seemingly doing his homework as he travelled to Calais in the company of road haulage operators and representatives of the Freight Transport Association (FTA) earlier today.

The Minister solicited views on the problems from Chris Palmer of Transam Trucking and David Aichen of Solstor among others and updated FTA Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham and Head of Policy for the South East Natalie Chapman on the current government position and plans for security improvements at the port.

This latest visit came after the situation deteriorated at the end of last week with reports of a gang of up to 150 migrants attempting to board numerous UK bound trucks, a violent disturbance with some wielding iron bars as weapons, and during which one of their number was killed by a heavy goods vehicle. This brought a comment from Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett, who said:

“We are saddened by the news that a migrant was killed but we have two questions to ask of the authorities in France. First, given that the queues of lorries in an unprotected area was a predictable consequence of the strike, why were measures not put in place to provide adequate security for drivers in the Calais area? Second, can we have firm assurance that drivers will not go unprotected when there is such a clear risk in future?

“Calais Region President Xavier Bertrand has worked hard to start to restore security and confidence in the Calais route, including the clearance of the unregulated part of the migrant camp. The events of the past 24 hours are a serious setback to those efforts and must not be allowed to be repeated.”

Upon his return from today’s visit to Calais Mr Hookham, who has also given evidence to a Government committee about the impact of problems at Calais on FTA members, said:

“We heard some very positive messages from Mr Brokenshire about steps to improve security and we saw for ourselves some of the new measures that have been put in place. However, as security improves so the migrants’ attempts to get to the UK become more desperate and we must remain vigilant. Mr Brokenshire heard first-hand from our members about the pressures that their drivers face and the impact on their operations. Organised people trafficking should now be a key focus for both the French and UK governments and more secure parking facilities are needed inland to prevent migrants boarding trucks before they reach the port.”

The FTA also informed Mr Brokenshire that its members had reported attempts to board trucks at other ports, emphasising the need for safe parking areas and effective security. Both they, and the RHA, have encouraged their members to read the government guidelines and sign up to the Border Force accreditation scheme that advises operators and their drivers how to secure their vehicles against unwanted intrusion and to avoid being fined. The FTA emphasising to Mr Brokenshire that voluntary checks undertaken by drivers should be verified so proof can be provided later if stowaways are discovered.

Photo: An assailant attacks a UK bound vehicle by trying to smash the windscreen of the passing truck with a length of timber directly in front of the drivers face.