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Calais migrant crisis leads to mounting costs for Northern Irish hauliers

By Staff Reporter

Published 30/07/2015

Lorries queued as part of Operation Stack along the north and southbound carriageways of the M20 in Ashford, Kent
Lorries queued as part of Operation Stack along the north and southbound carriageways of the M20 in Ashford, Kent

Northern Irish lorry drivers have told of how chaos at Calais is hurting their business - and putting them in real danger.

They were speaking as the British and French governments pledged to increase security at the Eurotunnel after one migrant died during an attempt by hundreds to storm the Channel Tunnel.

Gary Lyons told UTV his business was suffering because of the trouble.

"Drivers are having to move to alternative ports, it has been frustrating and very costly," the Moira haulage company owner said.

"If the driver is waiting for up to a day, it's costing me £300 or £400 and if I have to look for another port to sail out of, that's more expense," he said.

"If they can't get to another port, they have to join the queue and wait.

"We just have to take the loss on the chin and get on with it."

Larne driver Stephen Millar has had to barricade himself in his vehicle during the long delays.

"You just think, is it really worth it, my friends ask why you put yourself through that," he said.

"It's a shame, I like the job and like travelling, but every time you leave France to get back to the UK it is really nasty. We have to be really careful all around Europe."

Eurotunnel has revealed that since the beginning of the year it has blocked 37,000 migrants trying to reach Britain, and that in the last month nine people have died trying to cross the Channel.

The operator said that on Monday night 2,000 attempts were made by people to storm the tunnel, and that it had fielded 1,500 more on Tuesday night - when a man believed to be a Sudanese national was crushed under a truck.

Although no one succeeded that night, it is thought that up to 148 people made it to the UK after Monday's incursion.

French police have been urged to take a "zero tolerance" approach to the crisis or face British deportation centres being "overwhelmed" with migrants.

Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed that "a number" of people crossed the border, adding that the French and British governments needed to work with Eurotunnel to quickly address the issue.

Speaking at the Home Office, Mrs May said: "Crucially, what we are looking at now is improving security at the railhead at Coquelles, so we can ensure people are not trying to come through the tunnel.

"That means some urgent work in government but also with Eurotunnel, and Eurotunnel has a role to play here in the measures they themselves put in place to protect their trains."

However, a spokesman for Groupe Eurotunnel, which manages and operates the Channel Tunnel, said that since the arrival of migrants in the area around Calais, it has invested more than £113 million, including £9.2m in the first six months of 2015, in fences, cameras, infra-red detectors and personnel.

He added: "These considerable investments have already been followed in the second half of the year with new fencing around the platforms. Security patrol staff has been doubled to reach 200 employees, including sniffer dog patrols."

Belfast Telegraph

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