calais ID 52851035 © Marcel Van Den Bos
© Marcel Van Den Bos

Both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Freight Transport Association (FTA) have urged the UK and France to act following an increase in attacks on drivers in Calais.

Drivers reported bins filled with bricks placed at entry points to the port on the night of 21 May, with migrants attempting to board lorries. According to the FTA, one driver, a Czech national, was hospitalised with a broken nose during the night.

Head of European policy at the FTA Pauline Bastidon told The Loadstar this was not the first violent episode since Calais’ infamous migrant camp, “The Jungle”, was closed in October.

“Around a month ago, police used tear gas to disperse migrants that once again had begun congregating near the port,” said Ms Bastidon.

“Our members have reported increased migrant activity – with visible signs of them staying in the area, sleeping bags, etc – as well as increasing violence against drivers.”

However, Ms Bastidon stopped short of backing RHA calls for the French military to be deployed to protect drivers and secure the port.

“We are not calling for military intervention,” she said. “What we would like is a heightened police presence in the area, at least during the summer.”

According to both associations, over the past three years the summer months have seen the greatest number of attempted crossings. A spokesperson for the RHA told The Loadstar that following the camp’s closure, there had been a decline in the number of migrants trying to make their way to the UK.

But one report suggests as many as 700 migrants have made their way to the port in recent months – though this is significantly down from the 9,000 reputed to have resided in The Jungle.

“Now, with the finer weather returning we are seeing greater numbers trying to make the crossing and more attacks against drivers,” said the RHA spokesperson.

“It has got to the point that, unless something is done, drivers are refusing to make the journey. We stand by our view of 2015 that only by deploying the French military can safety be guaranteed.”

Ms Bastidon said the FTA’s stance was pre-emptive, with the intention of drawing enough attention to the situation before it got out of hand, and to prevent a repeat of scenes witnessed in 2015.

“The French and British governments need to work together to solve the migrant issue, both for the safety of our drivers and also for those migrants who have returned to the area,” said Ms Bastidon.

“There is a need for urgent action by the French government to ensure that the area is policed adequately, and to protect drivers transporting goods, so that trade can continue to flow freely between France and the UK.”

Chief executive of the RHA Richard Burnett sent a letter to French prime minister Edouard Philippe “stressing” the substantial loss to the UK economy and to the thousands of hauliers that cross the Channel on a daily basis.

“The unabated action by migrants and the people smugglers is crippling Calais and its environs,” said Mr Burnett.

“For the third successive summer we are calling for the French to deploy their military to restore law and order to the region so that hauliers and the people of Calais can live and work safely, securely and without fearing acts of violence and intimidation from those whose only goal is to reach the shores of the UK at any cost.

“The safety of UK-bound hauliers, the economy of Calais and the safety of its citizens cannot be put in jeopardy as a result of increasing migrant mayhem.”

Meanwhile, the FTA is urging its members to take extra care when moving goods to and from the port areas, and to be extremely vigilant on the approach roads to Calais.

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