Violent scenes witnessed in and around Calais have been described as unprecedented by the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
Touring the Eurotunnel facilities on what was expected to be the busiest day of the year for vehicles travelling through Calais, FTA’s Chris Yarsley saw thousands of migrants attacking trucks as they queued on the motorway.
Based in the FTA Brussels office – Chris Yarsley – Manager Road Freight & Enforcement Policy said:
“I am flabbergasted at what I have seen; there were literally thousands of migrants benefitting from the queue of slow moving traffic on the roads around Calais. They were attacking vehicles; breaking the locks of trucks, slashing roofs of the lorries and climbing in the back of them.
“French Police were highly visible and were taking extreme measures to break up the crowds including using tear gas and closing the motorway in order to control the situation, but appeared to be overwhelmed by the numbers. The migrants appeared to be organised in their attacks, as we were told of disturbances in the town centre which diverted police attention allowing opportunities for incursion attempts, and migrants took advantage of traffic being slowed on the road outside of the security fencing.”
£89 billion worth of UK trade passes through Calais on a yearly basis. Previously, FTA has written to the Mayor of Calais, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister calling for action on the worsening situation for its members in the French town.
Mr Yarsley continued: “The situation in Calais is totally unacceptable – the area is clearly in crisis. Truck operators and their drivers are in the firing line – sometimes literally. Whatever your views on the plight of migrants and asylum seekers, no-one has a right to threaten, intimidate or physically attack drivers and other innocent bystanders.
“FTA expects and demands safe passage for truck drivers and others going about their lawful business. This must be the primary concern of French and British governments before someone gets seriously injured, or even killed.”
Representing FTA – Mr Yarsley had been invited by Eurotunnel to a round-table meeting with other national industry associations, including the IRU and Border Force at the French port to discuss security at Calais.