Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Road Haulage Groups Will be Concerned if RoRo Ferry Freight Blockaded at Port of Calais

Direct Threat by Town's Mayor to Stop Services as Protest at Illegal Migrant Situation
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – UK – Freight groups expressed concern today over a threat by the mayor of Calais to blockade the port should Britain fail to take further steps over migrants who use the town as a stopping off point before attempting to cross the Channel. Despite the French closing the controversial Red Cross centre at nearby Sangatte twelve years ago the stream of illegal migrants has continued, and any reduction of cross channel RoRo ferry services would impact on both British and overseas road haulage groups.

Estimates put the number of people squatting in makeshift camps round the town at around 12 – 1500 at any one time as they seek ways to smuggle themselves across, often on trailers headed for the UK. Most of the people involved emanate from various Middle Eastern countries with others from Africa who have often travelled North after crossing into Italy and some Asians from various countries.

It is hard to see what Britain can do as it is the target for these displaced people who see the country as somewhere they can improve their lives, but the French mayor described UK immigration policy as a form of ‘El Dorado’ and said the net effect on Calais was unsustainable. Britain in turn has been demanding that the French improve security at the port which they say is too slack but the French say it is a British responsibility to pay for any improvements.

The mayor, Mme Natacha Bouchart, has discussed the problem with Interior Minister Msieu Bernard Cazeneuve following his recent UK visit and afterwards said she might take the decision to block the port as a strong, but illegal, gesture to Britain. It is hard to see how such a move would hurt anyone except the port itself and the RoRo ferry companies which serve it. Certainly adjacent ports and the Channel Tunnel would be more than ready to take up the slack during any closure.

Photo: In 2002 the Sangatte camp was home to almost 2,000 migrants according to UN refugee agency reports. Courtesy of UNHCR.