The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says it warned weeks ago that the situation in Calais would continue to escalate if action wasn’t taken after violent battles broke out between police and migrants near the Jungle migrant camp in Calais.
Local residents described the clashes in which at least 26 officers were injured as “like a war” as 250 French riot police were sent to the area on Sunday and Monday nights to deal with rioters stopping traffic on the port ring road. Rocks were thrown at police, who used tear gas to break up the gangs.
FTA’s Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham said: “This is utterly unacceptable. Calais is back in crisis and truck operators and their drivers are again in the firing line – sometimes literally. The reported actions of migrants has crossed a line. 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 other port users going about their lawful business. This must be the primary concern of French and British governments before someone gets seriously injured, or even killed.”
While filming in Calais with truck driver Euan Fleming, FTA witnessed first-hand the gangs of migrants trying to break into trucks and wandering in the new secure areas where the British Government invested £7 million on a protective fence.
Euan, who works for Blair Transport in Belfast, described how drivers had been attacked with crow bars and threatened with being shot if they used their horns to draw attention to migrants breaking into trucks.
Mr Fleming said: “Your heart is in your mouth when you drive through Calais, but we have no choice than to travel through the port and I absolutely dread being here. It is common place to see gangs of migrants armed with weapons, they have attacked my own truck using Stanley knives to cut holes into the roof to get into the trailer.”
£89billion worth of UK trade passes through Calais on a yearly basis. In the past 12 months 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 at the port. The Association estimates that around £750,000 a day was lost to the UK freight industry at the height of the crisis in June and July when Operation Stack was put in place on the M20 for 28 days.
FTA warned of the worsening problem in Calais in May and called on the French government to take urgent action in June. As the situation deteriorated through the summer, FTA members described the area as “like a war zone”.