Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Road Haulage Trucks and Vans Beware! Migrant Crisis Spreads Throughout France and Spain  

We Witness Stowaways Captured by UK Border Force in Portsmouth Despite Increased Security

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Shipping News Feature FRANCE – UK – After the appearance of the Road Haulage Association's (RHA) Managing Director of Policy and Public affairs, Rod McKenzie, on the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC2 last week, we decided to send our own team to the port of Ouistreham in Northern France to see how the migrant crisis is spreading along that coastline, and promptly saw the stark reality of how the problem has itself migrated along the coasts of France and Spain.

Two haulage firms were also represented in the recent programme, Sherralin Ballard from SJL International Transport and Vicki Campbell from Breakwells and in it Rod McKenzie called for the French military to be deployed to problem areas where police are outnumbered, saying that lorry drivers have a right to do their job safely but regularly run the gauntlet of migrants trying to break into lorries where they are constantly stopped and threatened with violence.

Ouistreham, overrun this week with people celebrating the D Day celebrations, is more commonly referred to as Caen, the nearest major urban conurbation, and we were keen to see how serious the problem currently is. Sure enough a tour of the area revealed disparate groups of young men from the usual variety of African states, many playing football to keep warm at 5am on a chilly June morning.

This is no Jungle Camp of the type we witnessed near Calais, but the problem now seems more insidious, in Ouistreham, and along the coast, small bunches of migrants are probing a variety of vehicles in a more subtle manner than we witnessed in recent times. We saw a young man sneak past the heavy security at the port itself and try and install himself under a British coach without success. After a search amongst the queuing cars and coaches bound for Portsmouth he was located by a bevy of French soldiers, Gendarmes and Customs officials and escorted from the compound.

The arrival in Portsmouth was somewhat more dramatic. Despite all the security on the French side the UK Border Force are being particularly diligent in their searches of incoming vehicles, and with good cause. The wait at the Customs post, in past years a mere wave through, took considerably longer, with checks on every vehicle, particularly vans. Sure enough an elderly English couple, their 4x4 towing a battered aluminium trailer, was stopped and the trailer rear door, bearing heavy padlocks, opened to reveal a classic 1920’s or 30’s car, obviously back from a rally in France.

The officer examining the vehicle entered and searched, stiffened, and called for assistance as he produced two young men, like rabbits from a hat, who had been hiding behind the vehicle. The pair were led away, offering no resistance and the elderly couple detained. Speaking later to one of the Border Force officials we learned this was a fairly normal day, at least two more migrants had been caught during that morning in similar circumstances. The officer did not know what the fate of the refugees was likely to be.

If this then is indicative of the present position, one can only imagine the number of attempts being made currently from ports such as Le Havre, Dieppe, St. Malo and of course in Spain at Santander, Bilbao etc. The situation for trucks is of course considerably more serious and problematic than for private vehicles, which have by their very nature a higher level of security. It only takes a moment of inattention for a migrant to slip past the checks and we would warn all drivers that nowhere is safe.

Anybody, in any vehicle, car, van, caravan or truck, where it is possible to hide must be aware that, should a stowaway be located in their vehicle, the finger of suspicion, and the consequent heavy penalties, are liable to fall firmly on their shoulders. Truck drivers are advised not to stop anywhere near the ports in question and observe their vehicles at all times, checking doors, tilt covers and cords etc.

To watch the Victoria Derbyshire video click HERE.

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