BNP president attends port protest
President of the British National Party Nick Griffin has attended a protest at a major British port amid concern about illegal migrants using Calais as a staging post to try to enter the UK.
The disruption at the Port of Dover in Kent remained at a minimum as members of the National Front and other far right wing groups, including the East Kent English Patriots, stood at the entrance to the Eastern Docks today claiming to support truckers under strain from the rise in migrant numbers across the Channel.
Drivers say they face daily threats of damage to their trucks, concerns over the loss of their livelihoods and hefty fines if migrants are caught in their vehicles.
Following the protest, which lasted about an hour, Mr Griffin said: "I am here because four years ago British lorry drivers stopped me when I was driving through Belgium and told me 'you've got to do something to explain what's going on because every single day us and our colleagues are having our lorries broken into by illegal immigrants'.
"We are being threatened, being stabbed and being beaten.
"They are desperate to get into Britain and stop at nothing."
Mr Griffin said he had spoken at Parliament about immigration and had written to the Home Office but received no response.
He claimed the Government had spent years ignoring the situation and that it was time to say "enough is enough".
He continued: "The British Government has got to get a grip on our borders and shut out these illegal immigrants instead of letting them come in and sticking them up in three-star hotels at the taxpayers' expense."
He said the British truckers either "obey the law and someone stabs them" or they "let them in their truck and they face an enormous penalty" which he described as "grotesquely unfair" and said it was "dangerous and unnecessary".
He went on: "The Government could stop it tomorrow if they simply declared there is no more asylum soft touch Britain.
"If these people have come through France and they get here they are on the first boat back with nothing else."
Concerns were raised that far-right groups were behind the protest and using the plight of HGV drivers to push their hardline views on immigration.
Trucker Tommy Harrison, 28, who founded a 2,800-strong Facebook group representing lorry drivers' interests, said none of their members supported any blockade.
Phillip Hanley, 44, from Dover, who is a lorry driver for The Salvatori Group, said he had come down to support any truckers who turned up but that he did not agree with the views of the National Front or any other far right wing groups.
He said: "I do not go over the water but we have a lot of trucks that do and there are a lot of drivers who pull their trucks through Calais, and they have to sleep with their doors locked.
"It's not on. Jobs should not involve that.
"They leave their wives on Monday mornings, early on Sunday night, they go to work and have to put up with all that over there, and the French Government is doing nothing about it."
Mr Hanley said immigrants should be claiming asylum at the first safe country they came to, such as Germany.
He said: "Why come to England and do it here?
"It's costing the hauliers thousands and thousands of pounds because they have had to re-route their trucks to Zeebruge or Dunkirk which causes delays and mean they are not meeting their times."
He claimed the problem would "get worse before it gets better" and said drivers could be killed if the situation was allowed to continue.
Kent Police said the protest had concluded with minimal disruption to the Eastern and Western Docks.
A Port of Dover spokesman said: "The Port has remained open and in full operation, welcoming both tourist and freight customers as normal.
"The Port liaised closely with Kent Police about the protest being held today under the banner of supporting the truckers, which has now dispersed.
"Our primary concern remained the safety and wellbeing of our customers and community and keeping the Port and its operations open.
"The Port would like to thank Kent Police for its assistance in policing a peaceful protest whilst keeping the Port open."
Steve Corbishley, Chief Superintendent of Kent Police, said: "Through our protest liaison officers, we were able to actively engage with the protesters to ensure Kent Police facilitated what was a peaceful demonstration, while at the same time ensuring public safety and allowing people to go about their daily business.
"There was no disruption to both the Eastern and Western Docks and the impact on the highways around the Port of Dover was kept to a minimum during the protest.
"There has been no impact on the community of Dover with local district policing team officers continuing to work in their communities."
A Home Office spokesman said it was aware of the challenges faced by hauliers in Calais and that James Brokenshire, Minister for Immigration and Security, had spoken to the Road Haulage Association about their concerns and the Government's work with France to bolster security and deliver long-term solutions.
He said: "It is for the French to maintain security of their port and to maintain public order on their own soil.
"But we want to do what we can to help. We have already invested millions of pounds in improving physical security and upgrading technology.
"We have increased joint intelligence work with the French to target the organised crime gangs behind people smuggling and we are working at European and international level to address the wider problem of illegal migration, of which Calais is just one very visible sign.
"We have negotiated further immediate action with the French including implementing improvements to traffic fluidity, our offer of mobile security fencing and, longer term, the viability of a secure parking area for hauliers and corridor into the port.
"In the meantime, Border Force continues to work closely with the haulage industry, both in the UK and abroad, to ensure drivers and hauliers are aware of what steps they need to take to secure their vehicles.
"Those who are found to have would-be illegal immigrants on their vehicles can avoid a civil penalty if they can show they have taken these steps."