The French government’s decision to clear the Calais Jungle camp last October was welcomed by UK freight operators who regularly use the port. Their drivers had faced months of threatening behaviour and intimidation from migrants desperate to get to the UK, while thousands of pounds of damage was caused to trucks and loads as a result.
Freight Transport Association (FTA) members reported a transformation after the clearance, with no migrants camped out in the area and improved secure lorry parking offered by the port authorities. But just months later, migrants are returning and motorway operator Sanef has closed several lorry parks near Calais due to problems.
As summer approaches, with the prospect of warmer weather and calmer crossings, FTA is calling for the situation to be kept under control so there is no return to last year’s chaos which hit hauliers and holidaymakers alike.
FTA campaigned for the camp to be cleared and for its inhabitants to be properly processed by the French authorities so genuine refugees could be helped. Our members’ experiences at the port have greatly improved since October but, in the past few weeks, migrants have started to cause problems at the lorry parks on the main routes into Calais and many of these have now been closed. This has serious consequences for drivers who are unable to find secure parking to take their required rest periods. They are left vulnerable to attack from migrants and risk their loads being spoiled or huge fines if stowaways are discovered at the port.
James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive, FTA
Drivers themselves face fines of up to £2,000 per migrant found on board – even if they have passed through the rigorous checks at Calais. FTA recommends its members sign up to the Border Force Civil Penalty Accreditation Scheme (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-penalty-accreditation-scheme-accredited-haulage-companies) to ensure they have effective policies in place – and to offer some mitigation if stowaways are discovered.
Driver Tony Henderson, who regularly drives to France for Belfast operator Blair Transport, said he’d recently spotted sleeping bags close to the port and colleagues had witnessed migrants being removed from trucks. His firm has imposed a 50-mile no stopping zone around Calais to try to prevent migrants from getting on board.
Six rest areas have now been closed on the A16 and A26, with motorway operator Sanef saying its services will remain shut until at least 30 June.
Mr Hookham said, This means our members will once again become targets for illegal immigrants. It’s vital that the French authorities provide alternative secure facilities while these areas are closed and, above all, prevent the re-emergence of a Jungle camp.