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Lorry drivers press ahead with protest about Calais migrant crisis

Published 03/09/2016

Pressure has been growing on the French authorities to tackle the Jungle camp which has grown in recent months
Pressure has been growing on the French authorities to tackle the Jungle camp which has grown in recent months

Lorry drivers are pressing ahead with a planned protest about the migrant crisis in Calais.

Shopkeepers, police, unionists and farmers are set to join hauliers in calling for the northern section of the Jungle camp at the French port to be demolished.

The protest, expected to take place on roads around the town on Monday, is likely to disrupt British cross-Channel travellers.

Talks took place between French organisers and French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Friday.

Pressure has been growing on the French authorities to tackle the problem, which has seen the camp swell in size in recent months.

Despite efforts to reduce numbers by dismantling the slum's southern section earlier this year, up to 9,000 migrants from countries including Sudan, Syria and Eritrea are living there in squalor.

The Freight Trans port Association (FTA) said it had spoken " at length once again" on Saturday morning with David Sagnard - one of the protest organisers - and said he told them he is adamant that the blockade will still go ahead as planned.

According to the FTA, Mr Sagnard said: "The meeting yesterday with Cazeneuve did not lead to any conclusions that the French hauliers could accept. We did not get anything new, and consider that what was said was empty promises with no timetables to actually clear the Jungle camp.

"Cazeneuve wasn't convincing enough and so we will still go ahead with the protest - nothing has changed and the blockade will be happening exactly as planned and nothing will deter us from it."

James Hookham, FTA deputy chief executive, said: "FTA understands that the blockade in Calais is still going ahead as planned, which is disappointing.

"We are frustrated by the lamentable reaction of the French government given the collapse of public order in the Calais region, and the impossible position it has put their citizens and businesses in. Only the French government can resolve the overall problem, and we call on it to act sooner rather than later."

People traffickers are reported to be going to extreme lengths in Calais in their efforts to reach the UK, with reports of vehicles being torched, petrol bombs thrown and trees being cut down to block roads before drivers are threatened with chainsaws and machetes.

Gangs are paid thousands of pounds by vulnerable people to get them to Calais, from where some are smuggled to Britain to work to pay off huge debts to people traffickers.

Calais mayor Natacha Bouchar t has pledged to turn out in support of the protesters on Monday.

Dover Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke said: "While I have the deepest sympathy for the people of Calais, Monday's demonstration will achieve nothing other than chaos on the roads of France and Kent.

"What's needed is real action to tackle the causes of this crisis."

Ferry companies, including P&O, are trying to work with the French authorities to ensure cross-Channel passengers will be able to travel safely and securely.

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